Tina White is a 36-year-old mother of two living in Denver, Colorado. Tina also has epilepsy and suffers from tonic-clonic (grand mal) and complex partial seizures. Epilepsy has been a huge hurdle, but Tina has overcome many challenges with help from a generous community that includes her family and her friends as well as a chocolate lab named Jersey who is a trained epilepsy alert dog. She has also helped herself through her own perseverance and acceptance.
Tina was born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey, but has lived in Denver for most of her life. She attended Denver East High School, and recently graduated this year from Metro State University with a degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Human Services. At first glance, Tina White might seem like any other busy mother. However, the day-to-day challenges of being a mom are compounded by the additional barriers brought on by epilepsy.
For Tina, being diagnosed with epilepsy was a life-changing event. She experienced her first seizure in June of 2003. After a long day’s work as a CNA at St. Joseph Hospital, she went home with her baby daughter to rest for the night. The next thing she knew, she was in an ambulance and had no idea what was going on. Her doctors said that the grand mal seizure stemmed from a stroke she suffered when she was 3 years old, which partially damaged the right side of her brain. At first, Tina fought tooth and nail against the idea of having epilepsy. She refused to take her medications and did not want to even consider the idea that she might have seizures. But finally Tina accepted her condition and recognized that having epilepsy was the path she had to walk in life.
Tina has been aided greatly by her service dog, Jersey, who has been with Tina since July 2012. In late 2011 Tina had a particularly frightening seizure in front of her children on the 16th Street Mall in Denver. After hearing about this seizure, Tina’s neurologist advised that an epilepsy alert dog could help her in these situations. Tina was put in touch with Julie and Doug Hutchison from the Chelsea Hutchison Foundation, who introduced her to a chocolate lab named Jersey. Jersey was trained by Kayci Cook from Colorado K9’s. Training and living with an epilepsy alert dog has its demands, but Jersey has been a blessing in her life. To help pay for Jersey, Tina held a fundraiser this July, which also helped raise epilepsy awareness in her community. Tina was genuinely surprised by the generous response from her friends and neighbors. People from her dance group and her poetry group as well as friends and family all came out to help.
Tina has plans to give back to the community that helped her in her time of need. “Paying it forward” is a very important virtue in Tina’s life. Tina is currently planning a fundraiser scheduled for December 23rd,“Epilepsy Out Loud.” The event will help raise funds to help pay for others who need epilepsy alert dogs. Tina also actively volunteers for The Prodigal Son Initiative, a charity that provides after school programs, mentoring, and education for at-risk youths in Denver. Tina additionally volunteers for the Pay it Forward Project and the Im’Unique Organization in Denver.
The biggest supporters in Tina’s life have been her mother who is always there for her, and her two children, Temple and Aidan. She says her children have dealt with her epilepsy in a very selfless, accepting, and amazing way, which has helped her tremendously.
Doctors and Treatment
Tina has been seeing her current neurologist, Dr. Edward Maa, at Denver Health since 2005, and “wouldn’t see anyone else.” Dr. Maa worked with Tina to find the best combination of medications to treat her epilepsy. She now takes a combination of Keppra and Topomax, which has worked well for her so far. Tina has been pleased to be seizure free since July of this year. One of the biggest benefits she gets from seeing Dr. Maa is that he puts no restrictions on her life, besides driving. Dr. Maa also suggested that Tina get a service dog to help alert her to oncoming seizures. Tina worked hard with the generous support of her trainer, Kayci Cook, to get Jersey accustomed to assisting her. Since owning Jersey, she has yet to have a seizure that the dog can detect, but she can tell when the dog recognizes changes in mood.
Tips Tricks and Advice
Tina keeps her epilepsy in check by trying to avoid her triggers, which include lack of sleep, hunger, flashing lights, headaches, and stress. These triggers are sometimes unavoidable, but she tries to stay grounded and has often found her foundation through acceptance, prayer, and meditation. Staying active is also a big key to keeping balance in her life. Tina enjoys her Cleo Parker Robinson dance class, as well as running, swimming, yoga, and walking everywhere.
Epilepsy has taught Tina to challenge herself to stay active. She recently was invited by a friend to go hot air ballooning and zip lining in Boulder and Idaho Springs, Colorado. At first she was reserved about the idea of doing these things, and was even warned by her mother of possibly having a seizure. Tina decided to go out anyway and had a very rewarding experience. Tina realized several years ago that her epilepsy really wasn’t that bad and that she shouldn’t live in fear anymore. “Don’t stay in the house” is her motto and when she has to stay in she will “dance in the living room with Jersey!”
Ian is the Outreach Director for Seize The World and he has been excited to meet and get to know Tina during the past month! They have been communicating about Tina’s upcoming fundraising event, “Epilepsy Outloud,” and Ian is looking forward to staying in touch and hearing what’s next for Tina, Temple, Aidan and Jersey!