News Column

Tea for Epilepsy Foundation

Nov. 27, 2012

Kay Nguyen

Meredith French squeezes her eyes shut and shakes her head when she wants an oncoming seizure to go away.

"It doesn't work, though," she said.

The 9-year-old has temporal lobe epilepsy. She wants to raise awareness about the disorder, which does not have a cure.

That is why she is planning a fundraiser called the Mad Hatter Tea Party in July.

The Alice in Wonderland theme was chosen because a nurse told her that the Lewis Carroll novel was based on his experiences with epilepsy.

"Jabberwocky!" Meredith exclaims, extending her arms out in front of her.

Every once in awhile, Meredith does this because it's a fun word to say.

What's not as fun is the feeling she gets as she's about to slip into a seizure.

"The jabberwocky feeling -- that feeling of dread as you see it -- is that feeling you get right before you have a seizure," said Jennifer French, Meredith's mother.

Meredith had her first seizure when she was 3 months old. She was not formally diagnosed until two years ago, at age 7.

"Unless she was hooked up to a machine while she had one, we just didn't know," Jennifer French said.

Meredith wants to raise awareness so that it is studied more. Proceeds from her tea party will go to the Epilepsy Foundation.

Though the form of epilepsy Meredith has is fairly mild, the seizures are unpredictable and she goes untreated.

"The medicine made it worse and made me very emotional," she said.

Her mom said she came up with the idea for the fundraiser on her own after her last seizure. At times, Meredith might experience a seizure every day.

Months could go by where she doesn't have one, though.

"The seizures now are few and far between because she's just mildly affected," Jennifer French said. "Stress is a big deal for her, so we try to keep things as stress free as possible."

It's difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of epilepsy, Jennifer French said. That's why Meredith went undiagnosed for so many years.

"Her preschool teacher noticed her daydreaming and not paying attention," she said. "Her mind just started wandering."

The seizures were not noticeable to her or her husband at first. Meredith said before the onset of a seizure, everything looks far away.

"It's like I'm in a cave," she said.

Two winters ago, she complained that everything looked far away. Her parents knew it wasn't an issue with her eyes because they had just been checked.

"We went to a neurologist in Sioux Falls and they did an MRI and found scar tissue on her temporal lobe," Jennifer French said.

She watched the movie "Alice in Wonderland" when she underwent testing at the Avera Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls.

Meredith plans to dress up as Alice for the tea party. Her sister, Hallie, 7, will be the Mad Hatter.

Meredith is raising money to cover the cost of entertainment and refreshments for the July 20 event, which will be at the Red Rooster Coffee House. She'll begin selling raffle tickets in February.

Anyone is welcome to attend the tea party, she said.

"Dress up if you want," Meredith said.

An account has been set up at Great Western Bank under the name of Mad Hatter Tea Party fund, where donations can be directed. For more information on the event, visit madhatterteaparty.wix.com/home1.



Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: (c) 2012 the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.)


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