John Cordilla, 55, is a hard-working man who has more than earned his upcoming retirement. He grew up and still lives in Jefferson Parish, where he has been sharing his story with the New Orleans support group for a long time.
John’s struggle with epilepsy began when he was just two years old and continued until he was 31. He had a brief break during his teenage years, but his seizures returned pretty heavily at 16.
He had been earning his own living since a young age, so John had a hard time coping with not being able to drive or work with heavy equipment. He says he had to kept telling himself, “if the only thing I can’t do in life is drive, I’m going to make it.” John knew he had to be safe and stay positive, but that was not always easy to do since getting a job was impossible. Every time he filled out an application and disclosed his epilepsy, doors were shut in his face.
John refused to accept this and thankfully, his luck changed in 1983 when he met Mr. Joseph Yenni, Jefferson Parish President at the time. John sat down with him and told him what a hard time he was having finding work solely because of his epilepsy. Mr. Yenni hired him on the spot.
Though John had gotten control of his work situation, he had not gotten control of his epilepsy. At one point he was up to 16 pills a day and was still having about six seizures a week. Thankfully, with the new job came better insurance, which eventually led John to some relief.
After trying several medications and switching doctors, John learned he was a candidate for surgery to control the seizures. Deciding to actually go through with it was not quite as easy though. At the time, in 1992, there were only three hospitals at that were even doing the temporal lobe surgery and one of them happened to be in New Orleans. John got seven other opinions but really felt that he was meant to go through with it, close to home, at LSU.
The surgery was a success and his seizures were gone — John’s life was finally his own again. He came through it and began attending support groups to encourage others they could, too. John says that he is “the luckiest person in the world” and if he can help others in any way, it was worth it. He believes it’s important to remember that things could be so much worse.
John never gave up and it will all pay off when he retires after 32 years (23 years seizure free!) as an Equipment Operator for Jefferson Parish. He is looking forward to some quiet time with his wife for fishing and travel. John is adamant about the importance of understanding epilepsy and plans to keep talking about it and helping people know they aren’t alone for as long as he can.