Epilepsy prompts a new chapter for Young's son Photo courtesy of the Young Family
26 November 2013

Epilepsy prompts a new chapter for Young's son

He never expected it, but since Chicago Wolves general manager Wendell Young learned his son has epilepsy, his family has begun a new journey of education and diligence.

For a parent, few things are as terrifying as seeing a child in pain and having to watch helplessly. So when Wolves general manager Wendell Young and his family were at breakfast last summer, and his 22-year-old son, Matthew, began having a grand mal seizure, the patriarch assumed the worst.

“We were shocked by what unfolded when Matthew had his first seizure,” Young said. “Honestly, we thought he was dying.”

As Young and his wife, Paula, tried to help Matthew, another diner in the restaurant, who recognized exactly what they were going through, approached them.

“A man came up to our table, very calmly, and talked us through (the situation),” Young said. “He just said, ‘your son is having an epileptic seizure, my son has had one too, this is what’s going to happen and here’s what you do.’ If that man hadn’t have come over, I don’t know what we would have done. He came out of nowhere and then he was gone, and we never saw him again. He had a very soothing voice though and we really appreciated it. But after, we had to get educated.”

Education has been the key for Young’s family in the aftermath of Matthew’s epilepsy diagnosis. Everything from making sure he’s taking his medication at the same time each day to ensuring his lifestyle doesn’t interfere with his health has become a concern.

“This has all been a real adjustment for Matthew, with remembering to take the medication, and obviously, when you’re young, you don’t sleep enough and you don’t eat well, but those are some of the triggers so he has to be disciplined about it,” Young said. “And it has helped him grow up a lot. In the industry he works in (as a freelance cinematographer), Matthew does a lot of festivals and after-hours shows. It is a tough grind. He’s on movie shoots all night, but now he still has to take the medication at the same time. He was on a movie shoot and it was going all night and his alarm went off to take his medication and the director looked at him like, ‘Oh, it’s that time, huh?’ It’s a matter of being more disciplined.”

While his son’s diagnosis was a surprise, Young has (unbeknownst to him) worked with athletes who are epileptic. He used the revelation as a teaching point for his son as to what can happen if he isn’t rigorous with his new regime.

“We had a guy on the (Wolves) who had epilepsy, and I didn’t even know at the time. The medical things we usually keep pretty quiet, but you have to know what to do when you’re around someone who has it,” he said. “It is a learning point for Matthew because this player had had epilepsy since his young teens due to head injuries. I asked the player if he had had a seizure since being diagnosed and he said he had a few times, but every time it was because he didn’t take his medication properly. He’d go off it and each time he did, he had a seizure. That was a good learning moment for Matthew.”

Another point of comfort since the summer has been friends and family coming forward to share their experience with epilepsy and how it has affected those close to them. Armed with his newly acquired knowledge and a firm trust in Matthew to do what’s best for his health, Young is a little more relaxed about his son’s new reality.

“There’s a demographic of males between 20 and 24 that has epilepsy show up,” he said “I actually had the conversation with the doctor who diagnosed Matthew, like ‘What are we hoping for here?’ The doc said the least thing (the seizures) would be is epilepsy. It’s sad when you’re sitting there hoping the results come back as epilepsy. It’s not the perfect world, but it’s better than it could have been. We’re heard from more and more people who have dealt with it. The more you talk about it, the more you find that out and that helps with the education.

“I think Matthew’s disciplined enough, and the more he learns and the more people tell their stories, the better. We know too many sad stories about people who have died from epilepsy. There are a lot of people out there who have been affected. Matthew is doing great, though. He really is.”

epilepsyfoundation logoIn support of Epilepsy Awareness Month and to raise funds for the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago, Young is auctioning off a new item at each Wolves home game in November. Visit the Customer Service Booth behind Section 116 on Nov. 27 to bid on the chance to watch the game like a GM and on Nov. 29 for the opportunity to watch warmups with Wendell.