Nathan Ballard’s mom, like most mothers, was so nervous to send her only son off to college in another state last August. She worried about typical things, like making friends and doing homework, but she also worried about how he would manage his epilepsy without her.
A native of Lake Charles, LA, Nathan arrived to his first day of college at Texas Tech excited for the new adventure and way more ready than his mom was. They informed his RA about his epilepsy and a plan was set in place. Conveniently, his roommate was already well aware of what to do for Nathan if he had a seizure – the two are best friends and have been since before Nathan was diagnosed eight years ago.
Nathan began having frequent “spells” when he was 11 where he would stare off into space. After seeing the family doctor, Nathan was told not to worry, he would grow out of it. This went on for over a year and began affecting his school work and social life. Eventually Nathan’s mom put her foot down and demanded more thorough testing and after an EEG, Nathan was given the diagnosis of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. Though not the easiest thing to get used to, Nathan and his doctor managed to find a combination of medicines that controlled his epilepsy relatively well.
His first semester, Nathan learned some important things about how to handle college with epilepsy. “I kept a pretty regular routine in high school,” says Nathan, “when I started college, my sleep habits started to change and I realized sleep was a trigger for me. I worked in the library until 10:00pm a few nights a week, and after studying until midnight, 7:30am classes were tough.”
Nathan began having seizures pretty regularly due to the schedule change. Luckily, his RA encouraged him to register with the school’s disability department at the beginning of the semester just in case something happened. Nathan says he is so glad he did, they really went out of their way to accommodate him and make sure he didn’t fall behind.
He adds, “I cannot stress enough the importance of letting the school and those around you know. There are resources I would never have known about had I not been upfront with my professors and advisors. I was so nervous my mom was going to make me come home when I began having seizures more often, but because of the support I had at school, we were able to make it work.”
Nathan learned his lesson and made sure not to schedule early classes his second semester. He got the hang of managing his school and work routine, and even had time to help win a championship in intramural basketball…not to mention he finished his freshman year with a 3.5 GPA!
Nathan admits that this year away from home was more difficult than he expected. “I thought freshman year I would be skipping class for fun to hang out with friends, not because I had a seizure and had to sleep it off,” says Nathan. “Honestly though, I am really proud of myself for sticking it out and asking for help when I needed it.”
Nathan is home in Lake Charles for the summer working and taking a class at McNeese (and eating as much of his mom’s home cooking as possible) but can’t wait to get back to Texas Tech in August now that he has a year under his belt – he may even try to skip class for fun just once next year!