Jeremy Bignar, like a lot of people, knew nothing about epilepsy until about three years ago when he was on vacation and witnessed someone having a seizure at dinner. “It was frightening to watch,” says Jeremy, “it only lasted about a minute but it felt like forever. I couldn’t finish dinner and once back at the hotel, I Googled ‘seizures’ and read some information, but honestly didn’t think about it much after that.”
Little did Jeremy know, he would soon be learning a lot more about epilepsy. About a month later, he woke up from a nap on a lazy Saturday and went to the kitchen for a snack – the next thing he knew he was waking up on the floor to his wife calling 911.
MRIs and EEGs came back normal and Jeremy was told that it was possibly just a one time occurrence, but was back a few months later when his wife woke up to him seizing in bed. At this point he was diagnosed with epilepsy and put on medication.
“I had just gotten a promotion at work and my wife was pregnant for the first time after a miscarriage, so I was really stressed out, which they think could have triggered my seizures,” says Jeremy. “I am not much on doctors and hate taking medicine, so it was really hard for me to process but I knew I needed to be there for my wife and the pregnancy. I did everything they told me to.”
Though Jeremy has luckily only had a few other seizures in his sleep since, the possibility of one is always in the back of his mind, which has changed his life. He runs most mornings as a stress reliever. The biggest side effect of his medicine is fatigue, so he makes sleep a priority. Also, as an avid hunter and fisherman, he no longer does those activities alone. When on the water, he is always careful to wear a life vest and take proper precautions.
Jeremy describes himself as a “guy’s guy.” He likes football, hockey and all things outdoors. He enjoys working on cars after he gets off work as a mortgage broker. He moved to Opelousas, Louisiana from Ohio after marrying his wife in 2009 and much prefers the weather in the south. He says he has a much greater knowledge of epilepsy since his initial Google search and believes awareness is really important.
“I didn’t know about the stigma that came with epilepsy before I was diagnosed,” says Jeremy. “However, I remember telling one of my buddies what was going on after my second seizure and he advised me to not tell anyone. ‘Why?’ I asked. He couldn’t give me a reason, just that if it were him, he would keep it quiet. I was pretty offended by that. Why should I be embarrassed? I didn’t choose it!”
Jeremy is not ashamed of his epilepsy and though he is more careful now, it has not made him a lesser person. He says, “I am probably a better dad and husband because those seizures made me grateful for the life I have and the things I can do. It has also made me value each day more, especially when I wake up and realize I made it through the night seizure free. Like everyone one should – whether or not they have epilepsy – I take care of myself so that I am here to watch my son grow up.”