Helia is 59 years old and has had absence epilepsy since she was 15 months old. Her classmates never made fun of her and she loved school. Her ambition was to study dentistry, but in the end, she joined the Chilean Naval Army as a telegraph operator, proudly graduating from training with honors, despite her epilepsy. But not all was perfect: a few months later, Helia had a major seizure, which resulted in discharge from the Navy. It was the first time that she was angry about her epilepsy. She asked herself “Why me?”
Living With Epilepsy
She had to begin building her life from zero and decided to study for a secretarial degree. A few months later, she met her future husband and they had three children. She felt fulfilled. But her happiness was short-lived. Her husband deserted her and she was left with sole responsibility for her children and home. Then, at the age of 35 years, she developed a tremble in her voice and hands and her condition deteriorated to the point of not being able to talk, eat or take a shower unaided. She became dependent on others and experienced depression. After years of rehabilitation, she learned to take care of herself and decided that epilepsy was not so bad – there were worse things in life. How right she was: a cerebral aneurysm meant urgent surgery and pulmonary bleeding after the operation left her in a coma for 8 days. But she survived.
‘If people ask me where I find strength to overcome everything that has happened, I tell them that love is the answer. Love of my sons and grandchildren, love of all the wonderful – and not so wonderful – things in my life’, says Helia. ‘My experiences have helped me realise that I was born a fighter and I will die fighting the battle’, she adds.