Epileptic boy finds comfort in day camp
Cory Angelo of Cortland loves to play baseball.
He is a pitcher and shortstop for the local league and plays on a weekend traveling team as well.
In the winter, he plays basketball for Lakeview Middle School. Cory's grade point average on his last report card was a 3.8.
Looking at Cory and his busy life, you would never believe he has epilepsy.
Of course, looking at any of the 1 in 100 people who suffer from seizure disorders, it is difficult to believe. Epilepsy is not a disease that can be seen. It lurks in the brain waves of those it afflicts and strikes at unexpected moments.
It is this unseen characteristic, coupled with the sudden onset of seizure activity that makes epilepsy one of the most misunderstood diseases.
Cory was diagnosed when he was 7.
"Looking back, he was having seizures long before then. We just didn't know anything about epilepsy." his mother, Sherry, says.
Cory would stare into space for 30 seconds to a minute, unaware of his surroundings and unresponsive to questions.
"I remember sitting at the computer, and my mom was calling my name," Cory says, remembering one of his absence seizures.
"When I came out of it, I asked her if she was talking to me. She said 'yes.'"
"You were probably in trouble for not answering your mother," I joked with this 12-year-old sixth-grader.
Cory laughed. "No," he said. The communication and understanding between Cory and his parents has been an important part of his success in dealing with epilepsy.
"When he was diagnosed," Sherry recalls. "I took a year off work to be home with him."
During that year, Cory had a difficult time with seizure medication.
Sherry mentioned the struggle briefly as we spoke. Cory was comfortably frank about the difficult time.
"It gave me psychological problems," he said. "They put me on new medicine, and that was better."
Cory went on to tell me about his first grand mal seizure.
"I was sitting on the couch because I couldn't go to sleep," he says.
"Fifteen minutes after I fell asleep, I had a seizure. My mom thought I was having an asthma attack, but it was a seizure."
As I listened to this young man, I was struck with his acceptance of this disease and his manner of dealing with it.
Along with the support from his parents, a defining moment in Cory's life came two years ago at a day camp sponsored by the Mahoning Valley Epilepsy Fund.
The one-day camp gave Cory a sense of comfort, knowing that he was not alone in his struggle.
"I learned that other people have the same disease that I have," he said. "It made me feel better."
Hesitating just a moment, he shared with me, "You know, more people have epilepsy than asthma."
It is a fact Cory remembers because he is afflicted with both.
One of Cory's favorite moments at camp was toward the end of the day, as the group sat around a tree.
"Everybody shared stories of seizures they had," he said.
"It was good to know other people had this happen to them too."
I could hear in his voice the freedom of acceptance he experienced that day. His parents had always provided comfort and support. This day, Cory found affirmation.
This year, the Mahoning Valley Epilepsy Fund will be having its one-day camp July 24 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at First Christian Church in Girard.
The camp is open to children 4-13 who have epilepsy and, for the first time, also to children who have a family member with epilepsy.
Take it from Cory: It's an event no one should miss.
"I would tell people to go because if something happened, they would know what is going on."
XFor more information about the camp, call the Mahoning Valley Epilepsy Fund at (330) 270-8037.