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August 2021 Natalie Howard

August 11, 2021

Natalie HowardI was a passenger on a motorcycle in 1997 (24 years ago), hit by a drunk driver who fled, and I was left with head, back and neck injuries and was in special care units for a few weeks. When I needed this time for rest and recovery after being in critical condition, my close friends and family stepped in to help take care of my babies to make sure they were fed, happy, and healthy.

Following the accident, I would live a life of seizures (up to 30 a day), migraines, pain, depression, OCD, anxiety, paranoia and confusion. After seeing numerous physicians, I became a chemical guinea pig on a roller coaster ride. Up a dose, decrease a dose, add more to lessen the side effects of others: anti-convulsants, diuretics, pain meds, migraine meds, anti-anxiety and anti-depressants. Pages of them. Handfuls a day.

My life consisted of constant trips to a lab for bloodwork, MRIs, CT, bone scans and X-rays, nuclear tests to check my central nervous system, and hearing, vision and speech tests. I also had physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, biofeedback, massage, steroidal injections and counselors. I have been a constant face in the medical field, not only in my position as a unit secretary for 20 years, but also with my visits with numerous physicians and practitioners. I was a patient at the pain clinic and the eating disorder clinic. The medication I was on left me with little appetite, and I suffered from many symptoms such as hair loss and hair growth in unwanted places, weight loss, weight gain and suicidal thoughts. My bones, organs, eyes and teeth paid the price.

People would think I was anorexic or bulimic because of my weight and trips to the bathroom because of choking. I was judged, bullied, feared, disliked and called a liar because no one really knew the extent of the life I was fighting so much for and to change. I have lost co-workers, friends and even family. No one could see my pain or scars. Therefore, criticism and judgement is not their fault. My 2nd TBI was about 2 years ago. I slipped on my hardwood floor, and my face landed on a corner of a doorway. It was the same side as my surgery, where my plates and screws are. I immediately heard a scary crunch, and my neck and back took a serious jolt. The doorknob smashed into my chest. I was released right away after a quick ER exam with a concussion and chest contusion.

As well as making time for these things to continually function and heal, I am a mother of three and worked full time to provide benefits, food, and a home for our family. I am a firm believer that everyone has a story to tell and some a novel. Over the years I did my best with the situation I was given by staying busy, positive, focused and reaching deep with my pain, anxiety, struggles, jealousy or hatred. I took these feelings and turned them around into the power and energy I needed to get through a day. I often journaled, documented and made notes, which helped me to remember, function and get out what did not serve my purpose.

When my youngest was about 4 (now 18), I made the decision with my neurologist to have a right temporal lobectomy, to remove the damaged brain material that was causing me to seize. I trusted my doctor completely as she said it could improve my quality of life, and I might become seizure and medication-free. Some days I would have up to 30 seizures and migraines that stopped me from doing what I loved, being with who I loved, saving what energy I had for my children and work. My surgery was in 2007 (14 years ago) at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, MA. My recovery began, but I still had a long road of weaning off medications.

That is my story of my journey to become seizure and medication-free as I stand here today. I feel truly blessed to still be alive and be functioning as well as I do.