Jason hates seeing cars with sloppy paint jobs. He says that “you can always tell if a car’s been in an accident, because the parts that have been repaired and repainted just look different. They don’t know how to mix the paint and it hurts me to see it.” In the early 2000s, Jason started working in the auto-painting industry, and he found that he really enjoyed the work. “I love to make cars look pretty. My goal was to end up working at one of those high-end body shops that works on really nice cars.”
In 2012, things were going well for Jason. He and his wife had just bought a home in Atlanta. Work was steady, and they had just welcomed their fourth and fifth children into the world, a pair of healthy twins. However, right before dinner one night, without warning, Jason had his first tonic-clonic seizure. He woke up days later on a ventilator in the hospital, and his life has not been the same since.
“They told me I’d always be disabled and that I needed to use a walker, but I didn’t believe them.” Jason remembers. “I took that walker home and used it maybe one day. I needed to get back to work.” Despite his boss being willing to give him a chance, Jason’s seizures were getting out of control. It was clear that something needed to change. As Jason missed work because of seizures, it took a toll on his family’s finances. “We lost the house and had to move into this little apartment. After a while, we lost the apartment too and started living out of motels, just taking it week by week. The twins were just a few months old.” It was a tough time for the whole family, but Jason’s sister-in-law in Chattanooga helped them find an affordable place in Chattanooga.
Jason’s wife was able to get a job working nights, so despite the effects of his seizures and medications, Jason would stay up deep into the night caring for his kids so his wife could get some rest and continue working. Eventually, she found a steady day-job in Chattanooga, but there were still other battles to be fought. “It took about 6 months to get on medicaid. I was in and out of the ER, and it took another 3 months to finally get an appointment with a neurologist.”
Fortunately, Jason’s treatment was able to stop his tonic-clonic seizures, but then his seizures started to change. “I started having these focal seizures. I’d just walk off and stair at the wall for a minute and not even know I was doing it.” Before long, Jason’s tonic-clonic seizures started to return, which prompted many frustrating experiments with different medications and dosages. “My body’s just worn out. Worn out from all the seizures. Worn out from the meds. And then on top of all that, I’m still taking care of my kids. I’ve been trying forever to get on disability and keep getting rejected. I’ve been trying to get into vocational rehab for months, and that keeps getting stalled too. It all really starts to wear you down.”
Jason’s story is far from over. However, he is grateful for his family and his faith, the two things he credits for getting him through it all. “You have to take care of yourself, and you can’t do it by yourself. You’ve got to talk about it. It’s not easy to talk about it, but it helps. For a long time, I was kind of depressed. It was so hard not being able to work, not knowing how or if I was ever going to get better, but you’ve got to think positive. Sometimes just listening to other people helps. Connecting with my church, support group, and just staying in community with people has been so important.” Even though it hasn’t always been easy, Jason is excited for what the future has in store for him and his family. Driven and positive as usual, he is hopeful that it won’t be long before he’s able to get back to work doing what he loves: making cars look pretty.