When I began writing this blog, I knew that I wanted to use some of my journalism skills to interview different people to be featured on here. We all have people that we admire, and when I decided to do my first interview feature, one person kept popping into my head: my big sister, Savannah. She and I are more than six years apart in age, and we did our fair share of teasing and tormenting one another growing up. When Savannah was going through her teen years, I was that annoying little sister. I remember when we shared one of the bedrooms in our house, and Savannah wanted my parents to put a strip of tape down the middle of the room so that my stuff couldn’t be on her side of the room. Another time, I got so mad at her (I don’t remember why) that I took her bottle of Calvin Klein perfume (so 1990s, right?) and poured it down the drain. That didn’t go over well, as I’m sure you can imagine!
These days, the age difference between us doesn’t seem to matter as much, but I still look up to this big sister of mine. She’s a working wife and mother, she’s in incredible shape, and she’s an inspiration to everyone who knows her. She and her husband, David, have been married for nine years and have one son, JW, who will soon be seven. They live somewhere between a corn field and a corn field in Indiana (I don’t say that to be mean, I promise. There are so many corn fields out there, and I got so lost when I visited!) She recently took time out of her busy life to answer a few questions for me.
Q: What exactly is your job?
A: I’m currently the Interim Director of Alumni at Vincennes University! We are a smaller, public college in the southwestern part of Indiana! A good bit of my job is spent planning events for our community and alumni—from award dinners to golf outings. I also spend a good bit of time building relationships with alumni, students, and supporters of our university to help our mission and raise money for scholarships! It’s definitely a “people” geared job, which I love!
Q: What does an average day in your life look like?
A: I don’t lead a very exciting life, but I do get up early, say 5-6AM because I am a firm believer in working out first thing in the morning! From there, my morning really depends on if JW is staying home or going to school. When he stays home with David (who works night shift) my mornings are much easier because I’m not trying to prod JW along! But I always get ready in a mad rush. And breakfast always consists of a protein shake. I’m at work from 8-430PM, but I am a believer in getting things done on my lunch break. Normally I will run errands or run home and do things around the house. Sometimes, if I have nothing to do, I power nap.
After work, I usually try to cook dinner. I HATE cooking with a passion—hate, hate hate! But I attempt to cook, and we normally eat fairly early! Once the kitchen is clean, we like to get out of house, so we might go Jeeping, visit friends, or walk. Recently, we had a frozen yogurt shop open in our small town, and we frequent it way more than we should! During the school year we go to bed about 9-930PM, but we’ve been slacking and going to bed at 10-10:30PM during the summer!
Q: Favorite ice cream flavor?
A: I’m a simple girl… the Chocolate Vanilla soft serve swirl!
(David, Savannah, and JW)
When JW was four, he had his first seizure. Since then, Savannah and David have taken JW to see many different doctors and traveled hundreds of miles to figure out what the cause of his seizures and how to best treat them. Through it all, my sweet nephew has been a real trooper!
Q: Tell me about JW.
A: He’s a very social kid, so he’s always planning parties, and he loves to have people over! School was his jam because he loved being around people all the time. His current summertime favorite is going to the local dirt track and watching races! He loves all things boy—cars, trains, and planes, and Legos, of course. He owns a TON of Legos! He’s recently become very opinionated about what he wants to wear—Under Armour shorts and shirts with knee-high athletic socks are his go to, and only in red, white, and blue because those are the colors of his school!
Q: Briefly, can you explain what JW has been diagnosed with and tell me about his recent surgery?
A: JW was initially diagnosed with Complex Partial Seizures at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital after experiencing three seizures. He then had a MRI which showed some scarring on his brain. We were told that he had a type of seizures that would probably get worse over time due to the scarring and become resistant to anti-seizure medicine. We were also told surgery was very risky for his type of brain damage and would be more of a last resort. Less than two years after his initial diagnose, three different seizure medicines had failed to prevent his seizures. Once you fail three, the chances that any other seizure medicine will work is less than 10%. At this time, our doctor recommended that we go for a surgical evaluation at the Cleveland Clinic. In January, we went to Cleveland for a month where JW underwent another series of tests as well as a six-day EEG in the hospital. After that, a team of both neurologist and surgeons met and reviewed his case. After additional tests on yet another visit, the doctors recommended that JW undergo surgery to remove two-thirds of his temporal lobe. This would serve two purposes: to remove some of the damaged area of the brain and allow some of the removed area of brain to be tested to understand why his brain had scarring on it. We did know that with this surgery, the doctors would be unable to remove the damaged area on the insula part of his brain because it was too risky.
He had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic on April 6 (a Friday) and was released the following Monday! JW handled the surgery like a champ, requiring no extra pain medicine. His main complaint was the catheter and needing milk! JW was back to his normal craziness within days of surgery, but he had to be kept home for six weeks! He was able to do homebound school and finish out his kindergarten year!
Unfortunately, the pathology from the removed area of JW’s brain showed that he has Rasmussen’s Encephalitis. It is a very rare condition without many treatment options. JW has been seizure free since surgery and the RE appears to be dormant. Currently, JW is still on the same dosage of seizure medicine as he was before surgery, and we are not doing any further treatment of the RE until he has more seizures, which could be tomorrow or years down the road. RE is a very rare disease with only two cases diagnosed a year at the best hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic! JW does handle this all like a champ, (he hates needles) and he speaks very matter-of-factly about his seizures, surgeries, and tests! He’s BRAVE!
(Heroes DO come in all sizes!!)
Q: What’s something you MUST have every day?
A: Diet Coke and chap stick! I have a Diet Coke addiction and no desire to break it. Some people drink wine, I drink Diet Coke.
Q: Who is your biggest inspiration?
A: Carrie Underwood… I mean, have you seen her legs???
Q: What’s something you miss about living in the South?
A: Boiled Peanuts, good, real sweet tea, warm winters, being close to the beach, real peach ice cream. The southern accents! Zaxby’s!
Little known fact…. When I moved to Indiana NOBODY had Sperry’s and of course they all thought I was crazy because I had monogrammed things. Now they all wear Sperrys and monogram everything… yep, because of me Sperry’s and monograms are now in Knox County Indiana!
And that is my big sister Savannah. She’s hardworking, determined, and the true epitome of a strong Southern woman. I’m not sure if she knows how much I admire her, but I hope this gives her some idea. And I also really appreciate her answering all of my questions so honestly and openly and for agreeing to be my guinea pig for this post. Love you, Savy!