Chong Yang can’t remember a life without epilepsy. He was diagnosed at an early age, and his family was surprised to learn his “weird feelings” were actually seizures. Like many, they associated seizures with the physically dramatic tonic-clonic. Chong, however, was diagnosed with complex partial seizures.
Tonic-clonic seizures are when a person typically collapses to the ground and begins convulsing or shaking uncontrollably. Complex partial seizures involve unconscious and uncontrollable motions (ex. lip smacking, picking at clothes, fumbling fingers, etc.) as well as becoming unaware of the surrounding environment.
“School was quite difficult. I would have a seizure, push through it, and continue with the class hoping no one would notice. It worked because mine were complex partial so they impaired my awareness. I zone out, go to a standstill. It may not look physically tiring, but mentally, it’s like running a marathon in 30 seconds,” says Chong.
His journey towards seizure-control took time and effort, trying different medications and experiencing side effects both physically and emotionally. Eventually, Chong found a medication he could handle. It allowed him to live a seizure-free life for about 7 years, until his seizures returned during his junior year at St. Cloud State University. Thankfully, his professors and the University’s Disability Center were very accommodating.
Chong was able to study abroad in the U.K. during his senior year, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication; Television Production.
“I was looking forward to becoming a Technical Director in the control room. It’s the position of the person responsible for switching scenes on your TV. So when you watch the Golden Globes, I would be the guy that cuts the scenes from one celebrity to another. Of course, there’s more to it than that,” says Chong.
“However, the return of my epilepsy made that difficult. The field requires absolute concentration, down to the nano-second. So, having a seizure while a live news broadcast is going on would be a total disaster. It’s true that my health is a genuine issue, but I’m not going to let it stop me. I just hope employers don’t see it as the only thing and drop me from the candidate pool.”
Since graduating from St. Cloud State, Chong has been looking for a job with the opportunity for advancement, ideally in the Television Production field. This led him to connecting with Jon Hoffman, Employment Coordinator for the new Seizure Smart Employment program at EFMN.
“I met Chong at the EFMN Epilepsy & Seizures Wellness Expo last November,” says Jon. “I explained what I do as Employment Coordinator and he expressed that he’d like to meet with me as he searched for jobs. We’ve met a few times and have begun to put together an employment plan. Chong is a positive and upbeat person which I feel will be an asset in his job search and on the job as well.”
Jon has been able to offer Chong employment support by helping fine-tune his resume, going through a mock interview, and sharing information on recruitment centers that can offer additional help. Jon’s history of working in the employment sector allowed him to discuss disclosure and ADA protections, as well as personalize his approach to helping Chong find a job, and hopefully a career.