Column: Epilepsy and college students

by Haley Gardner

In 1985 Boston University student Marlissa Gardner stayed up all night to finish a paper that she had been struggling with. The paper had to be on her professor’s desk by noon the next day. After finishing it the following morning at 11 a.m. she set out to hand it in at the professor’s office. Realizing the train to north campus was running behind schedule, she ran the whole way from south campus. Arriving at 12:01 Marlissa ran up as her professor was closing his office door. He was angry and stated that she was late for the deadline. Frantically explaining the train situation, she had just gotten the story out of her mouth, when everything went black. She woke up that afternoon in the hospital with her professor in the room. The professor was understanding and took the paper, yet didn’t change his grading process and was as hard on her as he was any other student. She got a C on that paper.

In 2016 FPU senior Sarah Barnard woke up and was late for a class that she had stayed up all night studying for. Sarah arrived way past the classes start time, and the professor was angry since a test was being held. Sarah felt overwhelmed and started to seize in class. The students and professor seemed to look at her with bewilderment.

Epilepsy is defined as a central nervous system disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain becomes disrupted, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior.

“Nobody knew I was an epileptic because it wasn’t something that you exactly told every friend you had in 1985,” Marlissa said. “People are scared about things they don’t understand.”

Sarah said,“It is important to understand how anxiety and stress are main problems for epileptic students. Being pushed to some limits has made me have to leave class, stop class, or remove myself from the room before I seize. When trying to explain what is happening, students look at me differently and the stress becomes overwhelming and I end up in the hospital. If students and teachers and people in general were informed on the disorder, it would help lower pressure in some of these instances.”

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