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Parkway student performs her way through juvenile epilepsy

Parkway student performs her way through juvenile epilepsy
Meghan Gallagher performing with the Parkway High School dance line at a New Orleans Saints football game inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (Photo: Michael C. Hebert/New Orleans Saints)

BOSSIER CITY, La. (BVM) — She’s on the football field at every home game and she’s frequently on the court during home basketball games. She’s even preformed in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during a New Orleans Saints home football game. And she was recently diagnosed with juvenile epilepsy.

Meghan Gallagher, a rising senior at Parkway High School in Bossier City, La., isn’t a football star or a queen of the basketball court, but rather a star on the Parkway High School dance line and a percussionist in the award-winning marching band. Perhaps the softer sides of athletics, but an athlete nonetheless. Dance lines keep the fans entertained and marching bands keep the crowd fired up. They practice arguably as often as the players themselves, and they’re driven to perfection because on the field a misstep, a crooked line or an uneven diagonal is magnified and usually very obvious to the thousands watching from the stands.

So it had to be quite a jolt when, during the summer between her sophomore and junior year, Gallagher suffered a three-minute grand mal seizure while at a 4-H camp and was quickly diagnosed with juvenile epilepsy. For most in those shoes, life as they knew it would come to a halt. But not for Gallagher. After an initial period of specialists, tests and more tests, often three hours away in Dallas, Gallagher’s condition was diagnosed, she was on an aggressive medication that worked, and her friends, teachers and coaches were all in the loop and turned out to be quite supportive and understanding.

Of course, in those initial few months, there were challenges. Getting used to a new medication with fatigue as the dominant side effect was burdensome. Her mom, dad and older, college-aged brother were initially fearful to leave her alone at home. Band camps, dance camps and hours-long summer practices were either missed or cut short.

But Gallagher was determined to return to normal as soon as possible. And that she did.

“I just didn’t want my diagnosis to define me. It’s not who I am,” Gallagher said. “It’s not who I was before my seizure and I haven’t allowed it to become who I am after my diagnosis. For me, really not much has changed. Juvenile epilepsy is a condition I have, but it is not my identity and it is not me.”

To a 15-year-old teenage girl in the middle of her high school career, acceptance by her friends and not being treated any differently were her biggest fears. And to a certain degree instilled by her parents, determination to stay normal was paramount and became her mantra. Her friends embraced her diagnosis; to them it was not a big deal. Meghan was still Meghan and that would never change.

So at any future Parkway High School football of basketball game no one will find the Meghan recently diagnosed with juvenile epilepsy. What they will see, however, is honor roll student Meghan Gallagher, a leader on the dance line and an award-winning percussionist on the field.

And in Louisiana, a state where football dominates every fall Friday night, there will be Meghan Gallagher, as normal, performing her way through juvenile epilepsy.

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