Student draws uncanny parallels between her epilepsy experience and that of Mark Twain’s daughter

November 20, 2017

By Deron Hamel

Eighteen-year-old Vanessa Wadge has been living with epilepsy for 2 ½ years. She sees a parallel between her and the daughter of one of the world’s most celebrated writers, who was also diagnosed with a seizure disorder at age 15.

Vanessa Wadge (right) is pictured here holding the certificate for her Osler Epilepsy Scholarship. She is standing alongside Lawton Osler of Osler Business Consulting Ltd., the company that sponsors the scholarship, and another recipient of this year’s award, Mary-Katherine Rowe.

Jane Lampton “Jean” Clemens was the daughter of Mark Twain. Her father always felt his daughter’s epilepsy was caused by a head injury she had sustained when she was nine.

When Vanessa was about the same age, she suffered a head injury while playing on the monkey bars at her school. On May 6, 2015, Vanessa had her first seizure. Like with Jean Clemens, it was believed Vanessa’s epilepsy was caused by a head injury suffered years earlier.

This aspect of Jean Clemens’ life is interesting to Vanessa, she says.

“It is so unreal to read about someone who lived a life so similar to what I am experiencing at the moment,” Vanessa says.

Jean Clemens’ parents had always been supportive of their daughter and tried to improve her quality of life. This is something else Vanessa says she can relate to, noting that living in the northern town of Belle Vallée, Ont., made it challenging to see specialists.

“My parents spent 14 months trying to find medications that my body would not reject,” she says. “During that period, I was admitted into hospital at least once a week, airlifted three times out of town to more qualified physicians. … My parents were very comforting, always by my side, supporting me every day.”

In June 2016, Vanessa was airlifted to a hospital in Ottawa where it was revealed her continued seizures were the result of taking too much medication. Her neurologist also explained to Vanessa that she needed to “listen to my body” for auras and other indicators of an oncoming seizure.

“From that day, my life has been much better,” Vanessa says.

Vanessa, who is studying at Northern College in Haileybury, is one of the recipients of this year’s Osler Epilepsy Scholarship. The $1,500 scholarship, formerly called the OBCL Epilepsy Scholarship, is being offered to five students this year.

Osler Epilepsy Scholarships are awarded each year to exceptional students who have confronted and overcome remarkable barriers in their academic and personal lives due to their epilepsy.

Applicants also submit an essay about how epilepsy has impacted their lives as well as an outline of their future plans. Applicants also submit a 600- to 900-word essay about a famous person who has epilepsy and what that person’s life means to them.

If you have feedback on this story, or have a story of your own that you would like to share, please contact the newsroom at deron(at)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *