At the age of 15, Gillian was diagnosed with partial petit mal epilepsy, a condition where, as her doctor explained, the brain lights up. The condition may have been overlooked during her childhood as the seizures were mild, yet the boundaries they created were not.
Gillian found comfort through words and photography; she created an online blog to place success over the stigma of epilepsy. Her blog, www.findingfaces.weebly.com, holds stories of herself and other epilepsy patients who use their brains to better their lives. There is no clear answer to living with epilepsy, but there is comfort in numbers. Kathlyn Gay, author of Epilepsy: The Ultimate Teen Guide, published Gillian’s blog post to provide insights for recently diagnosed teenagers. Her condition became a platform, a newfound place to impact positive change.
Then petit mal turned to grand mal; and three years later, she had eight grand mal seizures, requiring her to spend a week in the hospital attached to wires. There Gillian was introduced to Streetlight, a program providing companionship for palliative care adolescents. From cancer to epilepsy, every teenager Gillian and Streetlight visited shared a common thread – to redefine their identity. It became her endeavor to pursue a career in healthcare.
She now attends the University of Alabama in Birmingham where she will peruse a Master’s of Science in Healthcare Administration. Throughout her college experience, she realized epilepsy became her biggest strength. For Gillian, a career in health administrator is a platform to bettering epilepsy advocacy. It creates wider access to the resources needed for epilepsy patients. As a health administrator, she intend to prioritize community support for epileptics alongside building outpatient epilepsy centers to reduce hospital costs paid by the patients.