Dillon Valley Elementary fifth-grader Amelia Blackwell's first experience with epilepsy was this past January, when she was still in the fourth grade.
"I had all my books in my hand, and I just fell back. My friend Michael caught me," Blackwell said. Another friend ran to the office to call 911, and her parents were called. "I woke up on the gurney and they took me to the hospital."
Now almost a year later, Blackwell wants others around her to understand what it means to have the disorder. If fellow students and community members know what it is they won't be so scared of it, she says.
At first, Blackwell didn't really want to talk about it, DVE principal Cathy Beck said. Beck is new this school year, and can relate to the fifth-grader: She was on medication for 12 years after experiencing a lone seizure 25 years ago.
But Blackwell worried other students treated her differently. So, after discussing the matter with her reading teacher, she figured "Why don't I just do a presentation on it so people don't think it's something bad, something you should always be worried about?"
Blackwell showed her fellow students an educational video, and pictures of herself during hospital visits. She reminded classmates of her own episode during school, and told them it's vital that seizures be treated right away.
"All of a sudden she was presenting to the entire fifth grade this wonderful presentation about what epilepsy was ... and how it is to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. She made this beautiful visual storyboard about it, with all these pictures of her," Beck said. "She has really turned into a real spokeswoman for epilepsy. Right after her presentation, another student who deals with something different came to me and said, 'wow, I feel much better about dealing with what I have to deal with after listening to Amelia's presentation."
"I think she gives all the kids in her grade courage and empathy and knowledge about this disorder. We're very, very proud of her here," Beck said.
Blackwell became more comfortable with her disorder, and learned a lot more about it, after attending an epilepsy camp this past summer. Some children couldn't even walk, she said.
Blackwell experiences a seizure - she experiences a whole range of them - about once every three to four weeks. She shows off her emergency medical bracelet, and talks about her medication. It's helping, and she's working to avoid one for a whole year.
"Some can be very mild and you might not even recognize it. There's a whole spectrum of what a seizure would look like," Beck said. "She's so smart about it, so calm and collected."
Now, Blackwell hopes to take her message even further.
"The presentation really made me feel great," she said. "I would love to do it in front of our community, to teach everybody in our community what seizures are. I bet there's tons of people around our community who have seizures, but they're afraid.
If another person has a seizure inside City Market, they'll know what to do," she added.