“I might have epilepsy, but it doesn’t have me.”
Greene County resident Dillon Breeden’s shirt epitomizes how he lives his life as one of 3.4 million in the United States with epilepsy.
“There’s always somebody in worse shape than you; there’s no use in complaining,” he said last week while talking to the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia.
Suzanne Bischoff, executive director, and Todd Patrick, program supervisor, came to Stanardsville last Thursday to hear Breeden’s story and collect the more than $1,000 he raised through his recent bake sale at Great Valu.
“I decided to do the bake sale because I have epilepsy and I wanted to do one for years; to do some kind of fundraiser for years for the Epilepsy Foundation. Since I have epilepsy, the Epilepsy Foundation is near and dear to my heart,” Breeden said.
The bake sale included items baked from people in the community and he said he’s grateful for the community’s assistance.
“Greene County always supports good causes and we look out for each other,” he said.
Breeden, who will be 31 on Dec. 22, was born premature at 26 weeks weighing only 900 grams (1 pound, 15.8 ounces) with a level 4 brain bleed (level 5 is the worst).
“God blessed me. God blessed me; that’s for sure,” said his mother, Gail Breeden. “He stayed in the hospital for 110 days and then every couple weeks back and forth. He’s had 16 surgeries in this life and 11 were on his brain.”
He’s preparing for one more now that his seizures are coming back.
“I started having seizures at 2 years old,” Breeden said. “I’ve had five grand mal seizures.”
A grand mal seizure causes a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.
“I’ve had the chaplains come to me a couple times and a little bit of your heart crumbles when the chaplains come talk to you,” Gail Breeden said. “They came because he had aspirated back down in his lungs with one seizure. And they bagged him for like 45 minutes to help him breathe.”
He was seizure free for about 12 years, until his body became immune to his medicine. Breeden’s most recent seizure was the first weekend of October. He currently takes 28 pills a day.
“They want to do more tests on me; they want to go in and do an EEG inside of my brain to see where (the seizures) exactly are coming from. I don’t know if I’ve got to spend the night in there. I don’t even know how it works,” he said.
Breeden used to be able to tell when a seizure was coming on, but he can’t any more.
“I go straight into a vibration. Like my whole body literally goes into a vibration. I can’t even tell really when they’re coming now because it’s like my whole body is basically like a jackhammer. After I have one, I’m just so exhausted for about two days after,” he said. “What scares me the most is the fact that I cannot tell when they are coming on.”
“How come you’re so positive?” Bischoff asked Breeden.
“Because when you spend your life in a hospital, especially when you’re a kid, you learn that,” he said. “I think when you’re a kid and you spend time in the hospital, you learn how to handle your life really easily.
I learned life is hard but you need to be positive because you there is going to be difficult times. It’s going to be hard. But if you’re positive you will succeed.”
Breeden has been a nationally certified massage therapist since 2009.
“The seizures make it hard for him. It’s hard for him to get a job because of the seizures,” Gail Breeden said.
“I can’t read or really write, but I have a program that read to me all the way through massage school,” he said.
Gail Breeden said she scanned thousands of pages from the school work so the program could read to him.
“It was well worth it,” she said.
Kelly Forloines, Dillon’s sister, was the inspiration for becoming a massage therapist.
Gail Breeden was also diagnosed with epilepsy when she was younger.
“I guess maybe I started having seizures when I was 12. And I didn’t know what they were back then,” she said. “I had the kind where I could be walking and then you just kind of just go into a daze and you’re just sometimes I would just fall out and other times I would lose muscle control.”
It wasn’t until she had one at the dinner table that her parents knew anything about it.
“My mother said ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, well this happens to me a lot. So, she took me to the hospital. I spent a week out there.”
It took about six years—and many types of medication—for Gail Breeden to become seizure free, and she has been since she was 18 years old.
“I don’t think he inherited the epilepsy from me,” Gail Breeden said. “I think it was caused from the brain bleed.”
Gail Breeden said both she and Dillon are grateful for all the friends who brought items for the bake sale, purchased items or donated online.
“And you know $1,000 is not much, but it is for a small community like Greene, it is,” she said. “I was really moved by the support that he got, that’s what touched me the most. I am just so proud of him. He’s got a kind heart, a good heart.”
She noted that with the support from the community they were able to fill the table three times.
“If every village in Virginia donated what you did, that’d be amazing,” Bischoff said. She said there are 85,000 people in Virginia who have epilepsy.
“It’s been me and him for quite a while. And then, of course, I have a daughter who’s his number one supporter,” Gail Breeden said. “Dillon is a wonderful young man. He’s, like I said, taught me patience. It’s been a long road, but he’s traveled it well.”
“One of my mottos is, ‘Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery and today’s a gift’,” Breeden said. “Every day you’re on this Earth is a gift. I ain’t no inspiration; I’m just a kind person that wanted to donate to the most magnificent cause in the world. I hope that more people will consider donating.”
To donate or for more information about the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia, visit epilepsyva.com.