Steven Riss: Perseverance Against Epilepsy

Steven Riss sometimes can’t believe that it’s possible to simply get in a car and drive.  It doesn’t matter if the 27-year-old is driving around his neighborhood in Longmont, CO, or if he’s commuting to work to install hardwood floors in Fort Collins.  It makes no difference if he’s headed to one of his graduate-level classes in Sports and Entertainment Management at CU Denver.  That is because Steven has epilepsy.  And he remembers well when he lost the freedom to drive at the beginning his senior year of high school.  Today, Steven is safely behind the wheel again after having been seizure-free for more than two years.  That is why, in simplest terms, he really values having a bit of freedom to move around.

StevenRiss (1)

Steven Riss


Steven is hesitant to link the term adversity with his seizure disorder.  However, he does describe a number of difficulties, and many of them have to do with transportation and figuring out treatments for his seizures.  His first seizure was a tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure that occurred during basketball practice when he was 14.  He was diagnosed with epilepsy after he had his second seizure a year later.  Steven’s license was revoked after another seizure caused a car accident at the beginning of his senior year of high school and he wasn’t able to drive again until after college.  Needless to say, Steven and his family worked for many years with a variety of doctors, exploring alternative therapies as well as traditional neurological treatments.  He seems to downplay the difficulties involved with feeling like nothing was working against his seizures, but it is clear that it must have been difficult for Steven to try so many different drugs and therapies without positive results.  Eventually, however, treatments began to work.  Steven has discovered that a healthy diet, a good neurologist and above all a supportive group of family and friends have all been indispensable to his effort to become seizure-free.  Steven has now been living for more than two years since his last seizure, and he makes it a point to take road trips, to ride mountain bikes, to play sports, and to see new places.  Steven highly values the freedom he has regained.

Steven Riss stands at the gates of Buckingham Palace during a visit to England.

Steven Riss stands at the gates of Buckingham Palace during a visit to England.


“I have a pretty good family,” Steven declares simply.  He laughs as he elaborates, explaining that his dad will ask constantly, “’Did you take your medicine? Did you take your medicine?’”  Steven is very grateful for his dad’s concern, because on a few occasions in high school Steven would skip his medication for several days at a time.  But his dad would actually count his pills to make sure that Steven was taking his doses, and in that way his Dad really helped Steven to stay on track.  Steven also credits Life Bridge Christian Church in Longmont as a great source of community support.  Steven also plays pick-up basketball games every Tuesday afternoon and Sunday night.  And just to make sure he is never bored, Steven also plays in a softball league during the summer, a flag football league in the fall, an makes regular trips to the mountains to go downhill mountain biking.  You really get the feeling after talking to Steven for a while that he is one of those people who goes crazy if he isn’t doing something at all times.

Steven Riss is armored up for a day of Downhill mountain biking at Winter Park.

Steven Riss is armored up for a day of Downhill mountain biking at Winter Park.

Doctors and Treatment

“I would not be seizure free if it were not for the neurologist I have right now.”  Steven speaks very highly of his neurologist in Longmont, Dr. Pierre Pavot.  Steven has been affected deeply by the level of personal care that he has received from Dr. Pavot, mentioning that it doesn’t hurt that Dr. Pavot is also a fellow Colorado Buffalo alum.  At one point, Dr. Pavot made a personal visit to the Emergency Room to see Steven when he was recovering from an allergic reaction to Dilantin.  Dr. Pavot helped Steven to transition away from Dilantin, and he instead prescribed Steven’s current medications, Keppra and Lamictal.  Steven has now been seizure free for more than two years.  Steven hopes that someday, with the help of Dr. Pavot, he can transition off of Lamictal and be on just one medication.

Tips Tricks and Advice

Steven explains that “it is important to act as an ambassador of epilepsy.  So many people are misinformed, even those who are recently diagnosed, that it puts out a stigma that makes people afraid to lead normal lives.”  Steven also highly recommends finding a personal source of inspiration and holding onto it through patches of rough water.  Steven finds his own inspiration in a passage from the Book of Romans in the Holy Bible, from chapter 5, verses 3–5:

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

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