Riley Anderson, 13 and a soon to be 8th grader in Lafayette, is a very talented piano player who hopes to one day write music for movies or tv. She has only been playing for two years, though you would never know it — she is that good. She is also good at soccer and volleyball, but when playing sports was temporarily not an option, she decided the piano is what she would focus on.
It all started two summers ago, on the way home from soccer practice, Riley was riding in the car with her dad when she quit talking mid-sentence and began having a tonic clonic seizure. After some tests, a few more seizures and an EEG, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. Riley and her parents were frustrated because no one could tell them why this was happening and scared because they didn’t know what came next.
“My mom was afraid to let me do anything by myself,” Riley says. “It was June when I was diagnosed and really hot. Once I had a seizure from probably being overheated and after that mom barely let me outside. The doctor said I shouldn’t play sports until we figured out my medicine and triggers, and even though I knew it was to protect me, I did not take it well.”
Riley was becoming very depressed despite her family’s best effort to keep her busy. That’s when Riley’s mom suggested she take up painting or an instrument to take her mind off things. “I have always loved music so I thought I would give the piano a try and I immediately fell in love,” says Riley.
Mary, Riley’s mom, said epilepsy really complicated things for her daughter. “She was so used to playing sports and playing outside all the time. It was really hard for her – to not only have to take it easy for an extended period – but to also be dealing with the sporadic seizures and side effects of the medicine. I wanted her to put what little energy she had somewhere and the piano saved us,” says Mary.
The summer passed, seventh grade started and Riley stayed out of sports for the fall. She missed playing but didn’t mind rushing home to finish homework everyday so she could practice the piano. She was still having seizures, almost always in her sleep now, about once or twice a month until January 2015. Thankfully her medicine seems to be working and she has only had two seizures since.
She has spent the last year and a half busy with sports AND piano.
Riley discovered a passion through an unfortunate diagnosis and is exactly what the phrase “making the best of it” is supposed to mean. She is unstoppable and has just started learning to write music, the next step to her goal of creating scores and soundtracks. We can’t wait to see what beautiful music she makes!