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Perham family attends 2016 national epilepsy walk

Clarissa Kvare of Perham and her family were awarded a sponsorship from Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc., in partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota to attend the Epilepsy Foundation's 10th annual National Walk for Epilepsy in Washin...

Russell Ohm, left, Susan Ohm, Clarissa Kvare, Mike Rood and Kim Rood participated in the 2016 National Walk for Epilepsy in April. Also pictured is Jason Stockman from Upshesr-Smith which offered a sponsorship for the family to participate in the walk.
Russell Ohm, left, Susan Ohm, Clarissa Kvare, Mike Rood and Kim Rood participated in the 2016 National Walk for Epilepsy in April. Also pictured is Jason Stockman from Upshesr-Smith which offered a sponsorship for the family to participate in the walk.

Clarissa Kvare of Perham and her family were awarded a sponsorship from Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc., in partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota to attend the Epilepsy Foundation's 10th annual National Walk for Epilepsy in Washington, D.C., in April.

Clarissa, a 10th-grader who loves animals, reading and taking long walks, has been coping with seizures for most of her life. She experienced her first tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure at age five and was diagnosed with absence seizures at age nine. Today, her official diagnosis is generalized epilepsy.

Unfortunately, epilepsy has had a significant impact on Clarissa's life. As a 16-year-old, she is old enough to get a driver's license, but cannot take driver's education until her seizures are completely under control. Although Clarissa enjoys swimming, she cannot go in the water without supervision because of the possibility of a seizure. Most challenging of all, Clarissa cannot be left alone. As her mother, Kim Rood, explains it, "I don't have the freedom to just go. Somebody always has to be with her in case she has a seizure."

Winning sponsorship for the National Walk for Epilepsy was a bright spot for the entire family.

"It was such a surprise," said Kim, "This was a great trip for Clarissa as she was able to get better acquainted with the epilepsy community. We want to thank Upsher-Smith for making the trip possible for us."

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Epilepsy does not define Clarissa. She has dreams of being a veterinary technician or a marine biologist. At home, Clarissa can often be found listening to music while her Siamese cat, Charlie, perches on her neck like a parrot. Clarissa also enjoys spending time with her stepfather, Mike Rood, and her two older brothers, Matthew Sazama and Brandon Kvare. Recently, Clarissa withdrew from the local public school and now attends high school online through Connections Academy. This change, combined with an adjustment in her medications, has helped Clarissa stay seizure-free since January. Her mother attributes the recent improvements to a reduction in stress because Clarissa was so nervous about having a seizure that it sometimes seemed to trigger a seizure.

Connections Academy has been very understanding of Clarissa's needs; for example, they provide her with physical (not digital) textbooks, since flickering lights are one of her seizure triggers.

Although the family has wanted to participate in epilepsy awareness events in the past, work and life schedules have previously made participation impossible. By walking for epilepsy, the family wanted to achieve greater compassion for people with epilepsy. They hope that if people are more understanding, those who have epilepsy will feel more accepted.

For more information on the National Walk for Epilepsy, visit www.walkforepilepsy.org .

Those interested in any of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota programs may contact Vicki Kopplin at 651-287-2314 or via email at info@efmn.org . To learn more, visit efmn.org.

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