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Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

Nelson strives to combat epilepsy

For the first eight years of her childhood, senior Andi Nelson lived a very normal life. She went to school, played sports and spent time with her friends and family. Everything seemed to be shaping up to a fun and successful childhood, until one fateful doctor’s visit that changed her life forever. 

After Andi’s teachers and family members started to notice her spacing off, Andi’s mother, Molly Nelson, decided to ask some of her fellow nurses for advice. 

Senior Andi Nelson gets in position to field the ball. Along with softball, Nelson participates in cheer, one-act, speech, NHS, choir and musical. (Anna Rupp)

“A nurse that I work with, I was telling her about it and she pulled up this video,” said Molly. “She slid it over to me and was like ‘Is this it?’ And I was like, ‘Holy crap.’”

Seeing that video confirmed in her mind what she was already suspicious of, so Molly scheduled an appointment with a neurologist. 

“After seeing that video, I made [Andi] an appointment with the neurologist and they did an EEG,” said Molly. 

At that appointment, Andi was diagnosed with epilepsy, specifically “absence seizures.” 

“I kind of describe it as like a mini-seizure because it’s not a full on grand mal seizure,” Andi said. “Basically, I space out for a few seconds. I usually blink and then I kind of just gain back consciousness.”

Although Andi experiences these absence seizures multiple times a day, she is able to sustain a normal lifestyle and keep up with her peers. 

“My epilepsy hasn’t stopped me from achieving my goals and pursuing my interests. I’ve been able to maintain good grades and stay involved in extracurricular activities, so I feel like my absence seizures can’t hold me back,” said Andi. 

As she’s gotten older, however, Andi’s epilepsy has become more severe. The first sign of an increase in severity came in November 2022 when she had her first grand mal seizure. It happened during science class, and one of her closest friends, senior Hailey Martin, was the one to witness it first. 

“When it happened, I was sitting right next to her,” said Martin. “She was shaking on the ground, her eyes were rolled into the back of her head and it sounded like she was choking. It was just a scary experience.”

Andi was then rushed to the hospital, where she spent the next three hours. 

“The doctors took my vitals and hooked me up to a heart monitor,” said Andi. “They also drew my blood to check how much of my medication was present in my blood. I wasn’t uncomfortable about being in the hospital because I had been there before when I fractured my femur and tore my ACL and meniscus, but I was really scared because this was a total different situation and it was something that I had never experienced before.”

Since that first grand mal seizure, Andi has had four more. To combat the seizures, Andi has tried all sorts of different medications, but unfortunately, nothing has been able to completely keep her seizures at bay. As a result, Andi has to miss out on many different things, such as school activities and driving, but she tries her best to maintain a positive mindset. 

“It has been really hard, especially within the past year, just because it’s kind of set me back in ways,” said Andi. “I can’t drive like the average teenager, and I’ve had to miss quite a bit of school activities…It can get mentally draining just because I’m tired of feeling defeated and set back, but I try to look past it and live a normal life.”

Molly has also noticed the toll having epilepsy can sometimes take on Andi.

“Before she started having her big seizures, it really didn’t affect her that much,” said Molly. “But now, yeah absolutely. Just be thankful that you’re healthy because Andi was healthy when she was born and then bam, all of a sudden she has this. We don’t know where it came from and or how it will affect her adult life moving forward.”

Senior Andi Nelson cheers on the volleyball team during the state tournament. Nelson is one of three cheer captains this year. (Maycee Hays)

With her first year of college coming up soon, Andi’s family, especially her brother, sophomore Tyson Nelson, is worried that she won’t have anyone there to help her in case of a seizure. 

“I’m most worried about her future because her moving away and not being with family is just scary,” said Tyson. 

Although her friends and family are concerned about her well-being, they all believe that she is more than capable of taking care of herself.

“Although this really sucks for her, it could always be worse and she can still live a normal life,” said Molly. “But I’m very proud of her for keeping up with her activities and her grades with having all this going on. She’s just a very strong girl.”

In the meantime, Andi is trying to take her medications regularly, get a good night’s sleep and eat enough calories each day to reduce the likelihood of a seizure. 

“The better I take care of myself, the less worried I am that I’m going to have a seizure,” said Andi.

Though her journey with epilepsy will continue for the rest of her life, Andi knows that as long as she takes care of her body, she will be able to live a long and happy life just like those who don’t have epilepsy. 

“I’m going to try to make the most of my life because I can’t dwell on something that I can’t change,” said Andi. “Life is very unpredictable and it’s very precious because you never know what might happen.”

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About the Contributors
Reagan Wilson
Reagan Wilson, Senior writer
Reagan Wilson is a senior and in her second year of journalism.  She enjoys writing editorials.  Outside journalism, Reagan is involved in volleyball, basketball, cheer, one-act, musical, speech, NHS and FBLA.
Anna Rupp
Anna Rupp, Sophomore writer
Anna Rupp is a sophomore and in her second year of journalism.  She enjoys photography. Outside journalism, Anna is involved in wrestling and band.
Maycee Hays
Maycee Hays, Senior writer
Maycee Hays is a senior in her fourth year of journalism.  She enjoys taking pictures at school events and writing feature stories.  Outside journalism, Maycee is involved in softball, cheer, powerlifting, club softball, speech, and NHS.
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