The Hudnall family was heading to church in their hometown of Alexandria, LA, in late 2011 when something unexpected happened. Sophia, at the time 4 years old, was having a seizure.

“She was a totally healthy child. We were stunned when they eventually diagnosed her with epilepsy and it spiraled from there. Our world was turned upside down,” recalls Susan Hudnall, Sophia’s mom.

Despite being on several different medications, her tonic-clonic seizures continued day and night for over a year. It was really starting to take a toll on Sophia’s body when something clicked and she he began showing signs of improvement.

Susan says, “Sophia was ecstatic, we all were, the first time she made it a whole day seizure free. I think we were starting to lose hope and were running out of options. Then 24 hours passed where nothing happened and it felt like we won the lottery! We took her out for pizza and a movie and it was the happiest I had seen her in so long. We made that a tradition and now we do a little something special each time she breaks her previous record.”

Sophia even keeps a poster in her room to count the days since her last seizure. “It’s like a game with myself. I don’t get mad if I lose though, because I get to start over the next day. The longest I’ve made it is 35 days,” she says, “but I’m going to beat that soon and then I’m going to ask for a fish!”

Of course like all epilepsy families, the Hudnalls have their setbacks, defeats, and tears, but they focus on those small victories and take it one day at a time. Susan says, “Sophia has never once asked, ‘Why, me?’ She is extremely resilient and has taught me a lot of the power of optimism without even knowing it.”

It has been over four years since Sophia’s life changed and even though she is not completely seizure-free yet, she doesn’t let epilepsy get in her way, she works around it. She loves to play outside with her dog and draw with sidewalk chalk. She knows everything there is to know butterflies and the movie Frozen, and isn’t afraid of much.

She is in the 2nd grade where she just learned how to spell tough- a word she uses to describe herself. She says, “Epilepsy makes me tough! I don’t even cry when I get poked with a needle anymore!  I can pick up heavy rocks and I am not scared to touch bugs. That means I’m T-O-U-G-H!”