In 70% of cases, the cause of epilepsy is unknown. Ruth Schmitz is part of the other 30%. Schmitz was born three weeks overdue and had trouble breathing because the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. This caused seizures, and she was diagnosed with epilepsy as a result.
As Schmitz grew older and began attending school she struggled to find the right medication for seizure control. This meant having a seizure in class was always a possibility. Schmitz’s approach was to be open and honest, which resulted in help always being close by.
“I had to educate my classmates and teachers at a young age. I had to be my own advocate in school growing up,” says Schmitz. “I had classmates that helped me if I had a seizure by being there for me, and then when the seizure was over they would take me to the nurse’s office.”
These early teenage years ended up being an impactful time in Schmitz’s life. She was able to attend Camp Oz after raising money selling candy bars one summer and made new friends. She has now reconnected with some of the friends she met at Camp Oz 15 years ago.
“Going to Camp Oz was the highlight of my summer that year. I met new friends that had epilepsy and it was also the first time I saw someone else have a seizure. It’s a different feeling watching someone else have a seizure when you’re the one normally having them,” says Schmitz.
Last spring Schmitz found herself reflecting on her time at camp, and though nearly 15 years had passed since her last seizure, she reached out to her regional coordinator Lori Braegelmann in St. Cloud to learn about ways she could get involved.
“The foundation offers a lot more resources now than when I was a kid. They have the Shining Star program, adult connect groups, more camps, Seizure Smart Schools, the Rise Above Seizures Walk, and much more,” says Schmitz.
Since reconnecting with EFMN just over a year ago, Schmitz has been involved with as many programs as possible. She attends adult Connect Groups, returned to Camp Oz last summer as a volunteer, has been an advocate for Seizure Smart Schools, and attended the Rise Above Seizures Walk for the first time last summer. This is all while she works towards obtaining an LPN degree from Ridgewater College – which is now a Seizure Smart School because of her efforts.
Schmitz will be volunteering at Camp Oz again this summer, and plans on attending the August 2nd Rise Above Seizures Walk in St. Cloud with her team Ruth’s Rockstars. Last year’s walks raised over $180,000 for EFMN programs.
“The walk was another avenue to go down and meet others affected by epilepsy. I had plenty of support from friends that wanted to be on my team and we even surpassed our fundraising goal. I like the idea that we come together for one reason, and that is raising awareness of epilepsy.”