Porter returns to Gothenburg to deal with disorder
Epilepsy: A neurological condition which affects the nervous system. It’s also known as a seizure disorder and is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures that were not caused by some known medical condition like alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar.-—epilepsy.com
Bill Porter had a hunch that epilepsy was in his cards.
His grandfather drowned while having a seizure at Lake Helen. Porter’s mother had epilepsy as did another brother who died after brain surgery. A sister has the disorder as well.“A lot of people don’t think epilepsy is genetic but in our family, it has to be,” said the 1986 graduate of Gothenburg High School who returned to the town of his alma mater last February.
Porter was living in Omaha and working in purchasing and sales for a company when he first experienced symptoms at age 27.
“I started biting the left side of my tongue in the middle of the night,” Porter said. “Some mornings, I could hardly talk.”
After a few occurrences, Porter made an appointment with a neurologist who performed some tests.
The diagnosis? Epilepsy.
“I was still a little amazed I had it but at the time I wasn’t willing to talk about,” Porter recalled.
But because the seizures happened at night, Porter was allowed to drive.
In Nebraska,he said people with epilepsy must wait 60 days after a seizure before they can drive again.
After the diagnosis, Porter’s life didn’t change much.
But at about 41 years of age, depression hit hard.
“I couldn’t even work anymore,” he said about the debilitating mental health disorder. “My wife divorced me and I was living by myself.”
Porter applied for disability benefits but was rejected. Six months later, with a letter from his psychiatrist, he began receiving benefits.
Slowly, he started getting his life back, joining a golf club to occupy some of his time.
In 2006, Porter said doctors implanted a vascular nerve stimulator in his neck.
“It’s like a pacemaker for your brain,” he said. “If you have a seizure, you put a magnet on it to stop or slow the seizure.”
Last November, the 44-year-old underwent surgery on his left frontal lobe to stop the seizures.
Two days later, Porter had a second brain surgery.
To his knowledge, since then, Porter has not had any seizures.
Still, he moved back to Gothenburg to live with his father so “someone was overseeing me.”
When he lived alone, Porter sometimes walked in his sleep while having a seizure.
“Once I ended up in the apartment lobby, asleep on the couch,” he said.
Porter said his attitude about epilepsy has changed 100% since his childhood when he witnessed his brother having epileptic seizures.
“I was probably embarrassed but now I realize what he went through and give him so much more respect,” he said.
Porter said he thinks Americans don’t show much support for people with epilepsy.
“I think that’s from lack of information and fear because they automatically assume that people with it lie on the ground and flop around,” he said. “That’s not always true.”
Porter said epilepsy is something people like him generally want help with and support.
“You shouldn’t hide it, especially because there’s so much more information on it than there used to be,” he said. “And so many more prescriptions to treat it.”
Although Porter will always have epilepsy, he may be seizure free.
“That’s a big step.”
These days, he hopes to get a job in sales. The college graduate said he’s always worked in sales, has been successful and works well with people.
“As far as work goes, I’m starting over but I have to start somewhere even if it’s a lower-paying job,” Porter said.
And that may mean leaving Gothenburg.