BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. | I would stare off into the distance for 10 minutes. People thought I was day dreaming. I wouldn’t even remember doing it. Something was wrong but I didn’t know what.
That is how Tamika Rhinehart, military spouse and mother, felt before she was diagnosed with epilepsy. Her young battle with her disorder has taken eight months of her life, but she is staying strong and fighting back.
According to the center for disease control (CDC), epilepsy is a broad term used for a brain disorder that causes seizures. There are many different types of epilepsy. There are also different kinds of seizures.
“I was first diagnosed with epilepsy about two years ago,” Rhinehart said. “It was really hard at first, they didn’t know what kind of medicine to give me. I was on bed rest for eight months, only sleeping except to wake up and take the 27 different medicines that I was on.”
Rhinehart has three children, Desmond, Lillian and Aiyana, and she wishes her disorder didn’t get in the way of family. She has support from all corners of her life.
“I love being a mom, and I wish I could be more active with them,” Rhinehart said. “The two youngest need a mom who can play with them and run around with them. I am slowly getting back to that, but in the meantime my eldest, Aiyana, helps out when she knows I don’t feel well.”
Rhinehart receives support from her husband, Major Roy Rhinehart III, 608 Air Operations Center pacific planning team chief, who would wake her three times a day to take medicine for the eight months she was on bed rest. She also gets support from her teenage daughter who helps take care of the younger ones, and through the Barksdale’s spouse groups.
Rhinehart met Bree Carroll, 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron programmer and military spouse, when they both first were stationed to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. They were in the same spouse group and have been friends since.
“I knew her before she was diagnosed. She was lively, active and happy,” said Carroll. “I can see how she’s getting better and it’s really great.”
Rhinehart has taken these last two years and turned them into her new purpose in life, educating people about epilepsy. She hosted a 5k on base last year to spread awareness for the condition and is continuing her efforts with an auction in November and a social media campaign.
Rhinehart has a YouTube channel called Purpleptic, since purple is the color of epilepsy awareness month. Carroll helps her amplify her media presence and post a different fact every day during the month of November.
“She was scared when she was first diagnosed. People do not know a lot about epilepsy and you can die from it,” Carroll said. “She is trying to explain to people the severity of the disease as well as show people how to react if someone is seizing around them.”
Rhinehart said having a seizure in public is scary, tiring and embarrassing.
“If you see someone seizing at the store, or anywhere, give them a second, they need a few seconds to realize what is happening,” said Rhinehart. “Just give them space, ask if they are OK once they come to their senses and be understanding that it can be really hard to deal with this disorder even for people that have had it their whole life.”
Through her fight, Rhinehart has learned a lot and wants others to learn more. Her fundraisers and campaigns educate people and raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation of Louisiana.
“My whole family and friend group has been very supportive when times were hard for me,” said Rhinehart. “It’s my turn to support others.”