CHICAGO — More than 130,000 people in the Chicagoland area have been diagnosed with epilepsy. And unfortunately, there are hundreds more who have dangerously slipped under the radar.
For most of us, seeing someone go into a seizure is extremely frightening. We're unsure what to do and how to help. But perhaps even more alarming is the non-convulsing type of seizure that so many have without others even realizing it.
CJ Girolamo remembers his teachers constantly calling him out for daydreaming.
“My teachers kept saying, ‘Why are you staring off?’ Why are you staring off?’
But it wasn't until CJ hit 6th grade that those “daydreaming” episodes were diagnosed as absence seizures, a common symptom of epilepsy.
“I never knew it existed,” he said. “I felt alone.”
The Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago is on a mission to educate and support those living with this condition every day.
The foundation quickly became a lifeline for CJ and his family as they struggled to find answers.
They put CJ's family in touch with top neurologists and for the first time in years, the seizures began going away.
“It's everywhere and it can happen to anybody at any time,” Bryan Anderson, the foundations’ CEO said. “We're here to help. Everything we do is for free. We don't charge for anything.”
CJ has advocated in Washington on behalf of the foundation and pushed legislators to implement education and training at schools throughout the state.
The diagnosis that once felt like a death sentence, now providing the drive to help others like him.
“It is a passion,” he said. “They don't realize they can go to them for help. they're out there and they're not taking advantage of it.”
The Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago is having their annual gala Saturday, February 23rd. Hero’s Night Gala will be held at the Bridgeport Art Center from 6 p.m. to midnight. Ticket sale proceeds go directly to supporting those families they serve. More information at www.epilepsychicago.org.