When we first got the vest I didn’t want to wear it.
I was the only one wearing one at the barn. The harness and the vest made my disability visible. I couldn’t stand having it when it wasn’t visible, but now making it visible, are you kidding? Let’s take something that I don’t want in the first place and lets just make it even bolder- seriously? It’s taken me longer to get used to wearing the vest. The harness wasn’t nearly as visible especially going down a mountain, but the harness also acted as a belt. The vest on the other hand stares you smack in the face. I'm still not 100% secure with it, but I'm getting there.
I never told my bosses or coaches whether or not that day was a good or bad seizure day. If I did that I was afraid they wouldn’t push as much, or they would not put the jumps up as high. And when I worked at the barn I never told the manager how I was doing. I wanted to do the cool stuff. If I told her I was having a bad day I was afraid that she would tell me to sit down and take a break.
When I have a seizure, and fall off my horse, the air cushion instantly inflates (within 1/2 second) to protect me. Activation is simple and automatic. A coiled wire is attached to both my saddle and vest. When we are separated, the coiled wire pulls a "key" out of a gas release system and inert gas inflates the air cushion. The inflated jacket provides the necessary impact protection. It protects my neck, spine and vital organs. Then, after a few seconds, the gas is automatically released through the gas release valve.
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"I want those with epilepsy to know that they don't have to be housebound the rest of their lives." - Channing George
Wearing my ski harness was the last thing I wanted to do even though it was the one thing that kept me skiing. When people asked about it I said it was extra bling. I was afraid everyone on the team would think less of me but instead it was the first time I had felt “normal” in a while. The first time I got stuck on the chair because I couldn’t get my seatbelt off in time my teammates were on the chair with me and I was waving my arms. The liftee rolled their eyes at me and gave me “the look”. So the next chair lift ride up we agreed that I wouldn’t take it off on purpose just to irritate the liftee. It took me a while to get comfortable wearing the harness. I was definitely insecure and embarrassed by it, but eventually I forgot I was wearing it and even tried to get off the chairlift still strapped in. I felt like Bridget Jones.
The chairlift is the main concern for a skier with epilepsy. If you fall while skiing due to a seizure, it's one thing. People without epilepsy fall while skiing all the time. But falling off a chairlift due to a seizure is a different story. So me and my family designed a harness to keep me safe on the chairlift. It’s easy to do, and fairly inconspicuous. If you want to make your own, you’ll need: 1 locking carabiner, 1 “regular” carabiner, a harness designed for rock climbing, and a daisy chain designed for rock climbing. My daisy chain is 54 inches long with 13 loops in it. Something close to that should suffice.
Once on the chairlift, remove the daisy chain from your pocket. Sit all the way back, and toss it over the back of the chairlift.
Then reach behind you, and bring the daisy chain through the gap of the chair where the back meets the seat.
Next, connect the two carabiners. Every chair is different, so you may have to change the loop the carabiner is on. You want the daisy chain to have as little slack as possible, so that, in the case of a seizure, you’re firmly secured to the back of the chair.
You can practice on a chairlift when the mountain is closed. The first few times you use it on a moving chairlift, allow yourself plenty of time to take it off. You don’t want to be stuck when it’s time to get off the chair!