Kimberly Fricks spends her days a lot differently now than she did five years ago, before she was living with epilepsy. Though the change was not voluntary, Kimberly chose to make the best use of her no longer busy schedule and seized her epilepsy head on to help others.
In 2009, Kimberly, a Shreveport native, was a hard-working property manager in commercial real estate, working over forty hours a week on top of being a wife and mom. Later that year she began experiencing horrible headaches, occasional fainting spells, and seizures. Eventually these symptoms became so bad that she could no longer work and she lost her job. Doctors believed she was suffering from a heart issue, but after months spent seeing cardiologists she still had no answers. Finally, she was sent to a neurologist where she was diagnosed with epilepsy. Though it was a relief to have a diagnosis, Kimberly’s battle was only just beginning.
Kimberly struggled to gain control of her epilepsy and her health (she is also diabetic). She was in and out of the hospital having terrible cluster seizures, both tonic clonic and complex partial. Kimberly says the hardest part for her was watching her then four-year-old son have to deal with her disorder, learning what to do when mommy had a seizure and still being scared because he didn’t understand. She became depressed because she could longer do the things she loved the most. The guilt of being so dependent and feeling like she was neglecting her duties as a wife and mother, along with the frustration of trying to get her seizures under control, overwhelmed her.
Kimberly decided enough was enough. Before her diagnosis she was a wife, a mother, an aunt, a daughter, and a friend; she realized she was still all of those things. She reminded herself that she was lucky to be alive and since she still had the ability to be there for the people who mattered most, she became determined that she would not let epilepsy be her whole life or her excuse for not living one.
Though it took about two more years of trial and error to find the right medication, Kimberly wouldn’t give up. Soon after she made up her mind to stand up to epilepsy, she met Amy, Epilepsy Foundation Louisiana’s Client Services Coordinator for North Louisiana, and became involved with the Foundation. She began helping others by sharing her story and became a passionate advocate of the organization. Kimberly says her involvement with the foundation gives her purpose, keeps her busy, and has most definitely made her life better. The Foundation is very grateful she chose to focus her energy on supporting our common cause. Last year, Kimberly joined Amy in helping plan the Seize the Road Annual Bike Race and Awareness Walk in Shreveport. Kimberly went out into the community, told her story and people responded to that–the race saw a 34% increase from 2012 to 2013, thanks to her. Kimberly is also a H.O.P.E. mentor and assists Amy with seizure recognition and first aid training.
Kimberly is a great example of turning a negative into a positive and she is proud that she has come so far since her diagnosis. She no longer lets it consume her, reminding herself that it is only a small piece of who she is. Despite epilepsy, she can still be a mom and a wife, and that is what is most important to her. She and her husband, Chris, have been married for 9 years and have a son, Gavin, who is 8, together. She is also stepmother to Jordan, 22, Jessica, 20, and Austin, 19.
Of course, we can’t forget her dog, Buddy. The lab was given to Kimberly because he needed a home and she needed a companion, but Buddy turned out to be a little more than just that. After having him trained by a local agency, Buddy became Kimberly’s seizure service dog. He already had a way of warning her about oncoming seizures (he can detect them through sense of smell) but after being professionally trained, Buddy can give Kimberly a sign to let her know if a seizure is coming. He has saved her on more than one occasion and can almost always be found right by her side.
Epilepsy has turned from something that made Kimberly feel isolated into something she can use to help other people. Her story is real and may be partly painful, but by telling it she hopes to spread awareness and help others who are dealing with a similar situation know that they aren’t alone. She encourages people to use the resources EFL offers so they are properly informed and aware of everything there is to know about epilepsy. It has helped her connect with people and helped educate herself and her family so that they can live a better life. She is currently working on securing sponsors for Seize the Road 2014, and with her help we are sure this year’s event will be just as good – if not better – than the last one. Kimberly believes in being an advocate for awareness, she is an inspiration and we are fortunate to have her working to help Epilepsy Foundation Louisiana inspire change.