Epilepsy became a part of my life twenty-nine (29) years ago.
This is my story regarding my journey with epilepsy:
Hi, I’m Edward Crane. I’m 58 years old, and for about the first thirty (30) years of my life, I was healthy, active, and on a great career trajectory. I studied engineering in the U.S. Merchant Marine and traveled the world. Then I worked as a field engineer in the insurance industry in New Jersey and New York, and for a decade, everything went well. Suddenly, in “1987”, I experienced my first grand mal seizure and collapsed at a business meeting in Philadelphia. It was the onset of “epilepsy”, which changed my life forever.
I continued working for the next fourteen (14) years, but my seizures which only happened a few times the first year, became more and more frequent. They began to occur monthly, then weekly, then daily over the years – eventually they took control of my life. In August “2001”, I finally had to retire from my 24-year career because of my medical condition. This was a profoundly a very sad moment in my life.
A friend showed me a TV program featuring the nonprofit organization, called: Canine Partners for Life (“CPL”). It detailed the wonderful work that “Assistance Dogs” can do for disabled individuals, like retrieving objects out of a person’s reach, opening and closing doors on command, turning light switches on and off, providing balance and support, providing stability on stairs, helping bed-dependent individuals move, assisting with dressing and undressing, taking purchases and wallets to a cashier, alerting people to imminent seizures and cardiac events, and much more. This got my attention and I contacted “CPL” and arranged an interview.
The process of seeking an assistance dog was then interrupted in December “2002” when I had surgery on the left temporal lobe of my brain to reduce the frequency of my seizures. The procedure helped, but it also impaired my short-term memory. Fewer seizures were a step in the right direction, as a result of the surgery, but life was still a major daily challenge for me and I needed help.
After recovering from surgery in “2003”, I went back to “Canine Partners for Life (CPL)” and they introduced me to a female “black Labrador retriever” who would be my “home companion dog” with the ability to alert me of my oncoming seizures. Amazingly, at our first meeting, she warned me of an “oncoming seizure” about 20 minutes in advance of it’s occurrence. I laid down on the floor and she waited the seizure out by my side. I knew at that moment my life had just changed for the better. It was a new beginning for me. Our relationship as a “team” was truly amazing, life seemed normal again. We were together for about eight (8) years before she passed away in “2011”. Again, my life took a step backwards without my special dog by my side assisting me.
In June of “2012”, I was matched with my current “Assistance Dog”, a “cream Labrador retriever” who warns me of oncoming seizures with complete accuracy and reliability, quickly alerting me and getting me to react. He isn’t satisfied until I lie down so he can place his front legs across my waist, and he won’t let me up until my seizure is entirely over. He gets up and licks my face, signaling that it’s safe for me to slowly return to my feet. Life got back to normal for me again.
We have been together as a team for over three (3) years now and I also frequently lose my balance without warning. But I keep a good grip on the harness that my “dog” wears to provide me the necessary support through these unexpected challenges. This prevents me from falling and spares me many possible injuries and broken bones.
Epilepsy is truly a battle in life, between the seizures, physical injuries, chronic head pain, frustration and depression. I am truly a blesses individual, in that I have family members and friends who have helped me and supported me in so many ways, each and every day – deal with my epilepsy. I am truly grateful to my sister and her hubby, who I live with for being there for me with my epilepsy (May God bless them both). Also, my service dog is my canine partner who is with me, twenty-four (24) hours a day, everywhere I go and provides me all the support that I need. He helps me fight this battle daily and has helped restore a “level of normalcy” in my life – I am truly grateful.
My service dog made such a difference in my life with my epilepsy and the lives of many people that I know, that I founded a non-profit 501(c)(3) company, called “My Assistance Dog Inc.” several years ago. “My Assistance Dog Inc.” is a non-profit company organized and operated exclusively, to spread the word to individuals, the community in general and corporate America, about the need for and the benefit that “Assistance Dogs” provide to “disabled individuals” and their families. We also hope to provide support in as many ways as possible to the existing “Assistance Dog Community” at large.
(NOTE: We do not raise or train assistance dogs.)
Our goal is to educate and spread the word to the disabled community about: how these special dogs can positively change one’s life for the better, promote awareness regarding assistance dogs, spread the word about their abilities and skills, protect and advance our rights with our dogs and celebrate the great work of assistance dogs and the wonderful organizations that raise and train them.
A typical day for me is: I start my day with a one (1) mile walk in our neighborhood with my canine partner. My level of confidence is strong because I no longer have the fear of an oncoming seizure hitting be by surprise. It is a great way to start the day. I then spend the day on the internet and/or Facebook researching and preparing stories to feature regarding assistance dogs, plus answering questions regarding assistance dogs that people submit to us. My canine partner is always at my feet, working, paying attention to me and when ever he warns me of on oncoming seizure, I lay down on the floor and he places his front paws across my knees until the seizure ends. When he gets up, I know that my seizure has passed and I get up and sit down to recover. Many days I also fight a battle with chronic severe head pain and I take the necessary medication, but my canine partner knows my condition and provides me support by staying at my side. I try to focus on him and not the pain and it helps. In the evening I also take that one (1) mile walk again, in our neighborhood with my canine partner and it is truly relaxing for me. I sit down and review what took place in the day, I make some written notes (because of my memory loss) file them and I plan for the next day and the future. I get a lot accomplished most days and I move forward in life.
In my life with epilepsy, I have learned that my family has been there for me and they help me deal with the biggest challenge that I have ever faced in life and I am truly grateful for their love and support. But, it truly is my assistance dog that is responsible for returning a sense
of normalcy in my life and taking away the control that epilepsy had on me and I am truly grateful. This has made a difference for me and it is a true miracle.