story & photo
by Christopher Annino
At a very young age Dodie Hightower struggled with a neurological disorder - Epilepsy. Dodie’s condition is hereditary and happens when huge electrical bursts occur during normal brain function. Individuals will often result in uncontrollable body movements, which may result in injuring themselves or others. In many cases these seizures are unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Dodie spent most of her life in hospitals recovering from her seizures. Doctors and specialists doubted if Dodie would live a normal life, but her parents were adamant that she be the same as everyone else.
School was very difficult for Dodie, many of the kids called her cruel names like “seizure woman,” but despite the ignorance of some, she was able to make friends with very good people. With support from her family, she never gave up on living a normal life.
Dodie was able to graduate from high school, get a drivers license, get married, and work full time with people with mental and physical disabilities. “I really enjoyed working in the homes and half way houses, many of those individuals were viewed as monsters. But they were the kindest people that I had ever met,” she said. During this time, she still lived with Epilepsy but she could harness it and detect when she was going to have her next seizure.
Dodie was living her dream until she had two massive brain seizures during the birth of her second child. Doctors had to perform two emergency brain surgeries. During surgery she flat lined, and had an out-of-body experience where a relative told her that it wasn’t her time.
Dodie was able to make a remarkable recovery and she resides with her two sons and husband in New London. She still has seizures, but because of the surgery they are very small. Dodie is still very involved with volunteering her time to help others. Recently, she assisted at a bike fundraiser for the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital that five-year-old Chase McGrath organized. “One of the ways that I was able to recover from my surgeries, was that I kept myself busy. I did art, I challenged myself by helping others, and I listened to a lot of music,” Dodie explained.
Platinum recording artist Leslie Knauer, who over came a hereditary condition added, “Absolutely YES! Passion and loving what you do is a brain healer. Learning something new that you love every day helps grow new neurons. Right on, keep on doing what you are doing Dodie!”