SAUCIER, MS (WLOX) - Most of us have heard of epilepsy but might be surprised to know just how prevalent and dangerous it is.
Epilepsy affects more than 2 million Americans, with seizures resulting in up to 42,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. That is more than the annual number of breast cancer related deaths, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
One family in Saucier knows all too well how frightening it is to live with epilepsy. Dorothy Cruthirds and her family are finally able to relax a little. For several years that wasn't possible, because they lived in fear.
"Well, it's terrible to watch your child have a seizure, not know if they're going to live," said Cruthirds.
Her oldest of three daughters, Bethany, was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 16 shortly after she got her driver's license. Her first seizure came without warning.
"I'm a nurse and I've seen many seizures, but this one was terrible. Her eyes were rolled back in her head. She was foaming at the mouth, really violent convulsive seizures," said Cruthirds. "She quit breathing. She started turning blue. Me and my middle daughter started CPR and my husband called 911."
That near death experience was one of her worst seizures, but there were more. Many more. In fact, during her senior year alone, she had 98.
"She'll tell you she doesn't remember much of anything her senior year," said Cruthirds.
She says Bethany's life was spiraling out of control. Her grades plummeted, and the seizures and medications made it the worst year of her life.
"It's horrible because they weren't as bad as the first one, but that's the worst thing to watch; them having seizures and not be able to do anything about it," said Cruthirds.
Fortunately, after high school graduation, Bethany started a new medication regimen that seemed to make a tremendous difference. Bethany is a junior at Mississippi State University now and hasn't had a seizure in three years.
"She told me not too long ago, 'This is the best thing that's ever happened. I feel like I can take care of myself,'" said Cruthirds.
Despite her progress, the uncertainty of this disease is a constant worry.
"You never know. That's the kicker. There's no guarantee of anything. Just like you never knew when a seizure was going to hit, you live every day praying. We've made it another day, because you never know," said Cruthirds.
For now, the Cruthirds are enjoying every moment and remain hopeful that Bethany remains seizure free.