news releases

2005.04.18 > For Immediate Release
contact: Teresa Gleason - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: tmgleason@mail.unomaha.edu

Local Epilepsy Support Group to Celebrate First Anniversary April 19

Omaha – Note to news directors and assignment editors:  The Epilepsy Support Group will celebrate its first anniversary Tuesday, April 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus in Wittson Hall, Room 3010.  Media coverage of the celebration is welcome.

OMAHA – Heather Overton, a junior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), is on a roll.

In late March, Overton was named one of 16 national winners of the 2005 Pfizer Epilepsy Scholarship Award.  On April 19, the support group she helped found will celebrate its first anniversary.  And, on June 3, if all goes as planned, Overton will celebrate two years of being seizure free.

"I've never thought of having epilepsy as a disability," said Overton, who also works full time as a telecommunications assistant at UNO.  "It's something that I have dealt with all my life, but I've also learned so much from having epilepsy."

Overton is one of more than two million Americans with epilepsy.  The

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines epilepsy as a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally.  The normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms and loss of consciousness.

Overton was diagnosed with Primary Generalized Epilepsy at 18 months.  Her condition worsened as she grew older, and she suffered frequent grand mal seizures throughout her teenage years. 

"For me, the hardest part during this time was dealing with the misconceptions that surround epilepsy and not being able to talk with anyone who knew what I was going through," she said.  "I was the only person I knew who had epilepsy."

Today, Overton takes multiple anti-epileptic medications to combat the disorder.  She's also using her experience to help others like her in the metro area and beyond.

Overton's mother, Mary, leads the only epilepsy support group in Nebraska.  It meets the third Tuesday of each month on the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) campus in Wittson Hall, Room 3010.  The group's April 19 meeting will mark the first anniversary of its founding.  Members are at work on a number of projects, including starting an epilepsy foundation in Omaha, organizing an inaugural fund-raising dinner and silent auction in 2006, and developing an education program for local businesses and schools that helps dispel the misconceptions surrounding the disorder.

Sanjay Singh, M.D., director of The Nebraska Epilepsy Center and assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences, credits mother and daughter with making the support group a success. 

"I have been amazed by Heather's zeal to help people in the community with epilepsy," he said.  "She now serves as an inspiration to other young people with the disorder.  I particularly remember the comment of a young female patient who said, ‘I want to be like her (Heather).'"

Overton, who is majoring in management in the UNO College of Business Administration, plans on a career as an events coordinator or a fashion buyer.

For more information about the Epilepsy Support Group, contact Mary Overton at (402) 680-8026 or epilepsy1983@yahoo.com.

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