Everyone knows what it feels like to be diagnosed with a cold or minor sickness by their primary doctor; however, only 1 in 26 people know the emotions involved visiting a neurologist and hearing the doctor say “you have epilepsy.” When my neurologist told me that I had epilepsy, it was not pleasing to the ears. It was terrifying. I didn’t know whether to cry or look up to the sky and ask why. No matter how I reacted, I still had epilepsy and must deal with the disorder appropriately (accordingly). I had just finished my first semester of college at the University of Texas acting as a healthy young man, but the next semester was going to be different. My doctor gave me a medicine regimen, and I was tanking anti-seizure medication in the morning and at night time. Originally, my family and I thought these pills would stop my seizures and cure my epilepsy in a short period of time, but the seizures kept firing and I kept visiting my doctors. My medications were changing with each false attempt, and, as a result, I was experiencing all sorts of negative side effects. During my freshman and sophomore years at UT, I was battling depression and struggling to act as James Burke. The goals of college graduation and job applications quickly changed and my seizures took precedent over my daily life.

I have sat through numerous video EGG’s and one SEEG in hospitals across the nation. My AM/PM pill containers have seen numerous different medications and none stopped my seizures for longer than 2 weeks. I was diagnosed with complex partial epilepsy in 2009 and now have tonic-clonic, grand mal epilepsy in 2016. My seizures have induced more secondary injuries than my entire athletic campaign. As a result of one seizure landing me face down on a gas stove, my body now has visual scars on over 45% of my body. These seizures have tried to take me down but I have and always will get back up because I know that I put on this Earth for a reason: help others. When it comes to epilepsy, my family and I have been around the block more than once. Seizures do not scare me anymore and social anxiety is out the window. Those who are new to the disorder or are struggling with the conditions can come visit me whenever they please because I know that I can help.

Maturation is not something that comes easy and can be tackled through Google. Everybody has their own, individual route of reaching maturity and I matured through my seizures. I’ve learned that nobody is perfect in this world. Some people, like myself, are put on this Earth to show others what it’s like to live a harmonious, level life while fighting adversity. My seizures, surgeries, and secondary injuries were tremendous adversaries to my academics; however, I still graduated from a tier one university, University of Houston, with a bachelor’s of science in geophysics. I did not let my disorder disrupt my life and goals. Companies are calling James Burke for an interview. ABC published my epilepsy case on their newscast. Memorial Hermann published my powerful recovery from my burn injury on their webpage. I don’t seek success to brag to others. I seek success and diminish adversity because I want to show others that disabilities and disorders shouldn’t squander a life. There is a solution to every problem. With epilepsy, the solution may not be stopping seizures once and for all. I solved my problems by letting everyone know that epilepsy and seizures do not define my life. My name is James Burke and I am just like everybody else in this world.

I am proud to tell others that I have epilepsy because I am not afraid of other’s judgment. If someone judges me based on my disorder, then they are not worth my time. As of now, I enjoy volunteering at the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas and will be serving on the board of directors in 2017. I know that I can help others because I know that my words are powerful. That is based off my own conviction and other’s testimonies. Epilepsy doesn’t define myself but rather helped me find myself.

*This is a picture of me throwing out the first pitch at a Houston Astros (my favorite sports team) game. The Astros decided that I should throw out the first pitch of a ballgame in honor of the Epilepsy Foundation.

James Burke
Young Adult living with epilepsy
Intern and Volunteer with EFTX Houston