By Deron Hamel
Shaun Kehoe has a message for every person with epilepsy who’s living with uncontrolled seizures: “Don’t let epilepsy beat you. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
The 34-year-old Ottawa resident knows what he’s talking about. Kehoe struggled with uncontrolled seizures from age 17 to 25.
Having uncontrolled seizures impacted his life and the lives of his family members. Kehoe was having up to 20 seizures a day. This forced him to put his studies on hold. He couldn’t work. He couldn’t pursue his passion for weight-training.
Worst of all for Kehoe, his seizures, which could strike at any time, prevented him from spending time alone with his young son.
“My son was two at the time when I was diagnosed, and when I was diagnosed with epilepsy I was no longer allowed to be alone with him,” he recalls. “That was the thing that hurt the most; that I couldn’t be much of a dad – that’s what it felt like.”
Diagnosed with epilepsy at 19, Kehoe, who had been living on his own, had to move in with his father. His seizures were so severe he couldn’t be left alone and had to be supervised 24/7.
“My dad had to take two years off work on sick leave to watch me,” Kehoe says.
Kehoe’s struggle with epilepsy began at 17 when he had his first seizure. When he was six months old, Kehoe suffered a brain hemorrhage and needed surgery. His seizures were caused by scar tissue left from brain surgeries he had from the time he was a baby until he was 13.
Kehoe had more surgeries after being diagnosed with epilepsy. There were medication regimens. Eventually, doctors found medications that reduced Kehoe’s seizures to about three a day.
Then, when Kehoe was 25, a friend suggested he add omega-3 fish oil tablets to his medication regimen.
“I went a month without a seizure, which, at the time, was completely unheard-of,” he recalls.
But Kehoe started having seizures again in an on-and-off pattern. He began replacing his omega-3 fish oil tablets with an omega-3 fish oil liquid and has not had a seizure since.
That was 8 ½ years ago.
Today, Kehoe works for the federal government. He is an active weight-trainer and weight-lifting competitor. He also volunteers for Epilepsy Ottawa.
“I’ve always dreamt of being a personal trainer and an athlete, and I’m doing it now,” he says. “My life has completely turned around, and I’ve made it my goal in life to help turn other people’s lives around.”
And his message to people with epilepsy is always the same: “Don’t give up; don’t let epilepsy beat you.”
Kehoe adds that today he can spend “all the time in the world” with his son, Aaron, now 17. The pair works out together and they also share a passion for dining out.
Aaron has diabetes. Like his dad, he tries to help others, so the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
“He helps people (with diabetes), and I help people with epilepsy,” Kehoe says. “We want to give back, because we want to be a motivation for people.”