Newport Beach CA, October 6, 2012 – On a small street, there is a beautiful gallery showing the work of Susan Nelson. She opened up her doors for the first Epilepsy Therapy Project event in Orange County, to display art created by people living with epilepsy. The artists donated their work, which was available to attendees for a donation. Julie Thompson-Dobkin, the host for the evening, gave a presentation talking to the crowded gallery about the story behind the art and the different artists.
Julie brought up several statistics about epilepsy and discussed the work the Epilepsy Therapy Project has been doing. She said that 65 million people in the world live with epilepsy, over 2.2 million in America, with 32,000 of them living in Orange County alone. She commented this number would only increase as more soldiers come home with traumatic brain injuries. Individuals living with epilepsy are affected by more than just seizures; they face challenges in school, employment, and social events.
Epilepsy is one of the most under recognized and underfunded of neurological disorders, especially when you consider the number of people living with epilepsy, is higher than those who suffer from autism, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy combined.
I had the opportunity to speak with Sara and her husband Steven, from Mission Viejo, CA. Steven explained to me about a friend he had in high school who lives with epilepsy and had a seizure in class. “I was first to him, because I knew what was happening right away.” It was his first encounter with epilepsy. He had always known about it, but never knew how widespread it is. “I have to, honestly, admit that I was not aware of some of the statistics I was reading,” said Sara, Steven’s wife, when she was speaking about the information on the invitation that stated: Approximately one in 26 individuals will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives.
As the evening progressed Julie talked about the art and their creators. She spoke about, her son, who lives with epilepsy, and he has been her biggest inspiration. As a neurologist and self-taught artist, Julie started researching creativity in the brain. She focused on the isolation and localization of creativity. Her path led her to the Epilepsy Therapy Project and a lecture by Dr. Steven Schachter, of Harvard Medical School about artists who live with epilepsy. Her excitement for his research and the help from the Epilepsy Therapy Project led her to this evening, to support her family, and raise awareness for epilepsy. ”Art became a means of therapy,” Julie said. “It allows them [people with epilepsy] to finally communicate and express themselves in ways they couldn't before”
The Epilepsy Therapy Project was founded by a small group of mothers, fathers and children who were unsatisfied with the status quo. Their strategic approach has led to an acceleration of new therapies from the laboratory to the patient. ETP provides grants and investments to the most promising ideas in the early stages of development, where funding is grossly lacking. In over 13 of 20 funded studies, the seed money provided by ETP has led to further investments that have progressed to advanced stages of development, as well as actual therapies.
As the night came to a close, you could hear the excitement for the art but also a deep appreciation for Julie. Her energy and motivation is truly inspiring. There was also positive talk of the just announced merger between the Epilepsy Therapy Project and the Epilepsy Foundation and all the great new treatment and awareness efforts this will bring to the community.
I would like to thank Julie Thompson-Dobkins, The Epilepsy Therapy Project, Thompson Cellars and Susan Nelson for opening her gallery up to us for the night. I was thrilled to be there and left excited for all the great things to come.