A heartbreaking loss of child brings awareness to epilepsy - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

A heartbreaking loss of child brings awareness to epilepsy

18-year-old Kelsey Williams lost her life to epilepsy. (Photo source: Kathleen Williams) 18-year-old Kelsey Williams lost her life to epilepsy. (Photo source: Kathleen Williams)
OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month, and a Coast woman wanted to use this time to help bring more awareness to just how devastating the disorder can be to the families affected.

Around 3 million Americans, including 60,000 Mississippians, have Epilepsy, which is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system.

The diagnosis can be life changing and life threatening. Kathleen and Jay Williams of Ocean Springs lost their 18-year-old daughter to the disease. Kathleen hopes sharing her daughter's story might help save lives.

“If I can help prevent just one person from dying from epilepsy, I have accomplished what I set out to do,” said Kathleen.

Kathleen lives with the pain of her only child's untimely death every day. But nearly four years after Kelsey Williams died from a seizure, she was ready to share her daughter's story.

“An unexpected death and loss of a child, I don't even know. It's almost like your brain isn't wired to accept that. And for me, it was like losing half of my body because she was our world, and it's tough,” said Kathleen.

Like so many parents, Kathleen and her husband Jay built much of their lives around Kelsey. She had her first seizure when she was just three years old and after having a second at age six, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. 

A neurologist diagnosed Kelsey and put her on medication. After starting her medication, Kelsey was seizure free from age six to 13. However, at age 13 doctors decided to take her off the medication.

Two weeks later Kelsey had a seizure. After that Kathleen says they became more difficult to control.

“That's when it started and the medication that had controlled her all those years didn't work anymore, and we went from medication to medication,” said Kathleen.

Still, despite her battles with seizures and the side effects of medication, Kelsey and her family worked to make her life as normal as possible.
 

“She was very active. A lot of energy. She was a runner and was very active and social and didn't let epilepsy get her down,” said Kathleen. And it was the exercise she loved that doctors believe triggered the seizure that took her life in May of 2012.

Kathleen says Kelsey had been warned that because exercise is known to trigger seizures, she should never workout alone. But she was alone that day.

“Like so many young people, she thought she was invincible. She was exercising and she had a seizure and died,” said Kathleen.

Before that, Kelsey had been seizure free for over a year. She was finishing up her senior year at Ocean Springs High School and looking forward to going to college.

The William’s family shared photos of Kelsey at prom. The pictures were taken three weeks before her death. Pictures that Kelsey would never see.

“She would have loved them. She loved her life,” said Kathleen.

And it's that love for life that has helped the couple move forward after losing their daughter.

“We had the best 18 years of life with her that we could have imagined, and I've always had to look at that and not what I lost because some people may never have what we had with our child,” said Kathleen.

Kathleen wants people to know that there's a new device that was approved by the FDA just one year after her daughter's death and it’s saving lives.

It's called NeuroPace and it's similar to a pacemaker but uses electrical stimulation to stop seizures.

Kathleen also wants people to know about support groups being started on the Coast. If interested, call the Mississippi Epilepsy Foundation at 601-936-5222. 

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved

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