SUGALR LAND, Texas – After her diagnosis at just 5 years old, Tiffany Penn has been battling epilepsy ever since.
Penn, 41, had her first grand mal seizure at 22 years old.
An increased heart rate, and experiencing fatigue and dehydration were all factors that could trigger Penn’s seizures, greatly limiting her options for exercise.
She stayed determined to pursue physical activities while also cycling through different medical options. But Penn was bombarded with negative side effects, like nausea and unexpected weight gain, along with anxiety and depression.
After being introduced to VNS Therapy- a non-medication treatment option for drug-resistant epilepsy, Penn was able to attack even taekwondo with full force.
“When you are in an unhealthy cycle, it’s really hard to get out of it,” Penn said. “VNS leveled the playing field to where I could.”
Penn wears a magnet on her wrist similar to wearing a watch, which she flashes over the left side of her chest (where the VNS device is implanted) when she feels a seizure coming on. This action then sends an impulse to her brain, which may prevent the seizure from occurring.
VNS Therapy has significantly limited the number of seizures Penn has experienced, previously having dealt with up to 30 seizures each month.
“I didn’t expect it to be as successful as it has been for me, but yay,” Penn chuckled.
Now, Penn is halfway there on the journey to earning a black belt in taekwondo and has no plans of letting epilepsy get in her way.
“It’ll be another accomplishment that I made in spite of the obstacles,” she said.