No two epilepsy journeys are the same. Especially when it occurs with another medical condition, like it does for Austin Thomas. Austin has lived most of his 22 years with autism, but seizures became part of his life at 17 years old when he was diagnosed with epilepsy.
“Austin faces the unique challenge of being nonverbal, meaning he can’t tell us how he feels,” says his mom Duchess.
Still, it’s obvious to Duchess and his sister Avi when Austin is happy and enjoying himself.
“Austin enjoys puzzles, playing with ribbons and string, using his iPad, and eating,” says Avi.
Avi also knows Austin enjoys summer camp. The two of them went to True Friends, a camp for youth on the autism spectrum and their siblings, when Austin was a teenager. Similar to what we hear from our Camp Oz campers, Avi strengthened her bod with Austin and learned that autism, like epilepsy, comes in many forms.
Video by PukeRainbows
No two epilepsy journeys are the same. Just like no two autism journeys are.
But it doesn’t mean there aren’t similarities. And that’s why Austin’s family came to EFMN with a purpose. To support Camp Oz and help other teens with complex medical conditions have a summer camp experience like Austin.
“I chose to donate to Camp Oz because I wanted other kids to have the same fun camp-like opportunity Austin had when he was younger,” says Avi.
The donation covered registration costs for multiple campers needing scholarships, giving youth with epilepsy the same opportunity Austin and Avi had. The ability for Austin to try new things and be around others with autism. And for Avi to become closer to and better understand her older brother.
“Avi and Austin spent a week together at camp. It changed their relationship because they were able to connect without my husband Jon, their younger brother Zach, or I helping them,” says Duchess.
Austin’s journey is one of community. It’s how years after attending True Friends, his family is paying forward the experience to others impacted by epilepsy through supporting Camp Oz. Two places that make it possible for youth to meet others who understand them.
No two medical journeys are the same. But the connection felt between those with long-term medical conditions, like epilepsy and autism, or both in Austin’s case, is enough to create understanding and mutual support.