Category: Thriving with Epilepsy

The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota periodically features a “Thriving with Epilepsy” story about everyday heroes living with epilepsy in our community. 

A man in a hoodie and baseball camp sits in an office and smiles at the camera

Meet Chong Yang

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Though Chong was diagnosed with epilepsy at an early age, he didn’t let his seizures get in the way of his education. He earned his Mass Communication:Television Production degree from St. Cloud State University, and even had the opportunity to study abroad in the U.K. As a recent graduate, he turned to EFMN’s new Employment Program for support and advice as he begins hunting for a job that he can make into a meaningful career.

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Three photos show the same young girl with a house, doing a painting, and giving a speech.

Meet Abby Ackerman

- Thriving with Epilepsy

From being diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder at the age of seven to becoming this year’s Winning Kid, Abby Ackerman is an example of what it means to be a Shining Star. Abby has been a member of the Shining Stars program for five years and has transformed into a role model who will travel to Washington D.C. this April to advocate for the epilepsy community through Teens Speak Up!

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Young man sits in front of a tree, arms crossed and smiling

Meet Ben Stowell

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Camp Oz is not just a place for kids to enjoy traditional camp activities; it allows youth with epilepsy to meet others like them and gain a sense of independence in a physically and emotionally safe environment.

Ben Stowell, a long-time camper, enjoyed these benefits and has carried both friendships and memories from camp into his adult life. It helped him become more comfortable with his epilepsy, and as he puts it, “Camp Oz taught me the only job I have is to be myself, and that’s the best thing there is.”

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Older woman in a cardinal sweater with a big smile sits in front of a piano.

Meet Sylvia Nelson

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Sylvia Nelson frequently shares her story and invites others to do the same. After experiencing a storm of seizures in 2007, she began connecting with her legislators through EFMN’s annual Day at the Capitol. This gave her the opportunity to tell her story and educate lawmakers about living life with epilepsy.

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A woman sits on a man's lap in a festive room with exposed brick; both smile at the camera

Meet Sarah DuCloux-Potter

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Confronting her seizures was a long and tough process for Sarah DuCloux-Potter. She rationalized them as nightmares and naps, and went through some difficult times to get to the active and joyful life she currently lives. Accepting a new reality has allowed her to take control of both her life, and her epilepsy.

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A family with two young children smile for a portrait in front of an ocean view

Meet Dr. Julia Valente

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Dr. Julia Valente was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 19 after more than five years of unknowingly experiencing seizures. Despite her challenges with epilepsy and its subsequent treatment, Julia persevered with her studies and graduated from medical school. She’s now a member of EFMN’s Board of Directors and is married with two young daughters. Julia’s husband, Gab Szerda, will be competing in the “Tor des Géants” race on September 10th, a 205-mile non-stop race in the Alps of Italy. Gab is using the race to raise funds in support of his wife. You can become part of Team Rise Above Epilepsy by donating to Team Rise.

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Portrait of EFMN's four Regional Coordinators

Meet Your Regional Coordinators!

- Thriving with Epilepsy

The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota has been serving the 60,000 people living with seizures in our community for over 60 years. Educating, connecting and empowering people affected by seizures, EFMN’s programs and services reach areas outside of the Twin Cities Metro area including the communities of Duluth, Fargo, Rochester, and St. Cloud.

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A mother leans in to get a kiss on the cheek from her daughter.

Meet Jacqui Mattson

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Seizures can strike at any moment. Imagine living your everyday life seizure-free, and then one day you are faced with a life-altering diagnosis. After receiving news that their daughter Jacqui was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 14, the Mattison family learned to cope with her seizures and find support through EFMN.

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A mother hugs her daughter in front of a rosebush.

Meet Julia Rennquist

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Misty and JP Rennquist’s daughter, Julia, was diagnosed with epilepsy three years ago. Although fully aware of her seizures, Julia is a rambunctious, funny and very sweet five-year-old. The Rennquist family found support through EFMN early on and celebrates Julia’s epilepsy journey every year at the Rise Above Seizures Walk.

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A man with a white beard and a baseball camp poses for the camera in front of camp greenery

Meet Steve Stoterau

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Steve has given generously to EFMN to ensure that kids with epilepsy experience the fun and friendships of a week at Camp Oz. Although Camp Oz was not available when Steve was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child, he now visits every year to experience the contagious joy of the campers.

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