When Derrik was 12 years old and in the 6th grade, he had his first tonic-clonic seizure in the middle of gym class. Epilepsy came with no warning into Derrik’s life and made a permanent home. Now 17 years old and completing his junior year in high school, Derrik manages daily living with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME) with the help of his family, medical team, and school community.
“I’ve had no choice but to accept it,” he says. “Through epilepsy, I’ve learned a ton and I am still learning. Learning about myself, my limits, and how I sometimes need to work harder than normal to get to my goals.”
Coping with a chronic illness as a teen can be especially discouraging, but Derrik remains optimistic.
“I just keep moving forward. No matter how bad the medicine might make me feel, or how terrible I start to think epilepsy has made things, I can overcome. I can reach my goals. It just takes focus, and grit, and knowing where to turn for support.”
Despite the twists and turns daily life with JME has thrown at Derrik, he is still able to thrive and excel at the things he loves. Derrik plays on his high school football team, the Randolph RAMS, as the long snapper and a defensive end. He also throws a javelin, discus and shotput for the RAMS track and field team. He finds time for recreational sports as well. He intends to further his athletic endeavors and potentially play on the collegiate level when the time comes.
“I’ve had some really ugly days because of epilepsy, some really bad times. I’ve also had some really good days and amazing things happen because of my epilepsy. My mom calls that the ‘silver lining.’”
As an Athletes vs Epilepsy Ambassador, Derrik will help spread the word about seizure safety. The quick thinking and reaction time of his family, coaches and teammates have kept him safe from injury on multiple occasions when tonic-clonic seizures have struck without warning. He is aware that many individuals in the general population are unsure of what to do in the event of witnessing a seizure and wants to help change that.