Kaden Ford in many ways is a typical outgoing 15 year old. The Colorado Springs teenager loves to play golf, snowboard and play basketball. He is active in his church and he loves hang out with his friends. Kaden also does something many other kids, and even many Americans do on a daily basis, he lives with epilepsy.
When Kaden was in the 1st grade he began telling his parents he was blacking out. Kaden recalls, “The best way to describe it is just blacking out for 10 seconds. It feels like you skipped time for 10 seconds, and the next thing you you know your life is 10 seconds in the future.”
Kaden’s parents knew something was off, but couldn’t immediately figure out exactly what was wrong. His mom Sheri says, “We didn’t really recognize it as being a problem until it became more frequent, and he didn’t know how to describe it he would just say that he was blacking out. Then there were 3 instances that really alarmed us. One was when he was riding his bike, and my husband was following right behind him and Kaden just kind of swerved off the side of the road and crashed. Then another time was when he was bowling, and he just kept walking down the alley and didn’t even throw the ball. He stopped halfway down the alley and was terrified, he was really afraid because he didn’t know how he got there. Then the last time my husband Russ actually saw his face when he blacked out. He saw his eyes and how they kind of fixed a little bit, and that’s when we realized that he was actually having seizures and got him to the doctor.”
Dr. Kathleen Currey, an epileptologist with Children’s Hospital Colorado is Kaden’s doctor. She says Kaden’s epilepsy is what’s called absence epilepsy, and doesn’t come with full blown convulsive seizures found with other types of epilepsy. “A lot of times kids with this type of epilepsy don’t even know they’re having seizures. The only people who may notice it are those in the family or school teachers.”
The tricky part of recognizing this form of epilepsy for parents is that the symptoms can easily be confused with some pretty normal behavior for kids. Dr. Currey explains, “A lot of kids stare. They’re born knowing how to ignore us. What parents can do to determine what is happening is if they can interrupt the staring spells, that’s not a seizure, that’s just a behavior. You have to get in their face, call there name, sprinkle water on them something and if there’s the slightest acknowledgment of your presence that is probably not a seizure.”
If you can’t get your child’s attention, then there could be something going on that your primary care doctor needs to look into. Dr. Currey explains that, “With some seizures like those Kaden has, he is right back. There is not much of a recovery period. If a person has a grand mal or generalized clonic seizure, it takes a while to reset the brain. It can take several minutes, or several hours and depends often how long the seizure lasts. People can be disoriented, confused and sleepy.”
In many cases, once the nature of the seizure is understood, medication can prescribed. In Kaden’s case, the right medication almost immediately returned him a normal active life free of seizures.
Kaden says he hasn’t had a seizure since 2015 and takes 2 pills in the morning and 2 pills at night. Doctor Currey says many kids will outgrown their epilepsy and in time no longer need medication. Others may need to stay on medication for the rest of their lives to prevent seizures. Even in those cases once a person is seizure free, they can do just about anything they want to do, or because almost anything they want to become.
Dr. Currey says there are a few exceptions, “You can’t be an astronaut, you can’t be a test pilot, and you can’t be a long haul trucker. Pretty much anything else is okay. There a lot of physicians, there are lawyers, there are athletes and musicians who are not defined by their epilepsy.
Since it’s been diagnosed, Kaden’s epilepsy hasn’t slowed him down. This year Kaden finished 6th in his age group at the National Drive Chip and Putt competition at Augusta National. Just qualifying for the event is an accomplishment that Kaden worked hard for with numberless hours of practice, and the whole family takes pride in.
Sheri explains, “We are beyond proud and super excited for him. Russ has been teasing Kaden for 3 years that he was our ticket to Augusta. Russ has been trying for years to get tickets through the lottery. To actually have the opportunity to go to the Masters, and for Kaden to have the chance to compete at Augusta National at his age is an incredible opportunity, it’s pretty surreal.”
With the construction of the new Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs, in the future diagnosing and treating kids like Kaden can happen without the drive to Denver.
“In our new hospital we are building a epilepsy monitoring unit, which I am really excited about,” says Dr. Currey. “We will be able to admit a lot of kids and capture their spells and determine what they are, and if they are seizures then what is the appropriate treatment.”