When Kayla Bonar was 8-years-old she was diagnosed with epilepsy – a disorder characterized by epileptic seizures. That’s when “it all started,” she said.
The diagnosis was tricky, she wasn’t showing the “usual” signs. Her seizures varied from mild to serious – they weren’t typical.
“Seizures are not black and white because nothing with the brain really is,” Kayla said.
As she aged her parents and seven siblings began to adapt, learn, and live with her illness. When it came time to go to college, Kayla, raised in Lynnwood, happily decided to attend Washington State University – across the state.
Part way through her first semester, this November, she had an episode, a seizure, one she says was not definitely not typical, at least not for her.
“That – what I had in November, nobody is really sure about,” she said. “I was alone when they found me, unconscious. They can only sort of guess what happened.”
Kayla was discovered in her dorm room after seizing for 24 hours.
She’s home now, in Lynnwood, recovering from what was her worst seizure to date. Her goal is to go back to school and finish her degree in communications. When she returns, she hopes she won’t be alone.
When she feels ready to dive back into the stress of college and a new environment she will have a companion, a dog, if all goes as planned.
“We will take comfort in knowing there is a loving dog trained for her – and bonded to her – to help respond to her physical and emotional needs,” said Lela Petit, Kayla’s great-aunt.
The dog, to be named Charley, will be trained to sense and acknowledge Kayla’s pre-seizure symptoms. He or she will push a button installed on Kayla’s phone in case of emergency.
Unfortunately, seizure response dogs do not come cheap, so Kayla has created an online fundraising campaign to raise the $34,000 necessary to buy the dog and pay for its training. She has raised over $10,000 in the last six weeks. She has until June to raise the remaining $24,000.
The companion will change Kayla’s life and will eliminate the possibility of Kayla being left alone to seize for an entire day. Most importantly, it will give her independence.
“This sickness has caused it to be even more difficult to let Kayla go and live her own life,” said Sonya Bonar, Kayla’s mom. “We have to make sure we have a plan for her wherever she goes. It’s heartbreaking to watch a child deal with a sickness that limits independence.”
After just a couple months, in January, Kayla went back to WSU, after what she thought was enough recovery time. Not long after returning she was air-lifted to Seattle Children’s Hospital again after her roommate found her seizing. This was when Kayla and her family realized a companion was essential for her well-being.
While it was much less serious than what happened in November it was a big lesson.
“No matter how important something may seem it’s always secondary to my health,” she said. “It is hard at times because I take my school work really seriously and I want to do well and achieve. This made me realize it isn’t worth sacrificing my life for these last couple years of school.”
Leaving school has been hard for Kayla, who’s always been a dedicated, involved student. She is keeping busy as she waits for Charley. She has taken solace in writing either for her blog, Coffee Shop Talk, or while brainstorming for a memoir she is considering writing.
“I have talked to a lot of people who have said how touched they were by my story,” Kayla said.
“Just getting it out on paper, because it was very traumatic in itself and emotionally some days are really hard, so it helps.”
For more information on the Kayla’s fundraising campaign see: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/seizure-response-dog-for-kayla. Kayla’s blog Coffee Shop Talk can be found at: kaylabonar.com
– By Kate Clark