SIDNEY — Amy Chupp, of Sidney, has been named one of 32 scholarship winners in a national competition.
More than 500 people applied for the UCB Family Epilepsy Scholarship Program, according to Allyson Funk, head of United States communications at UCB.
Chupp received a $5,000 grant and has enrolled in Edison State Community College in Piqua.
The married mother of two has struggled with epilepsy from childhood.
“I was diagnosed at age 8,” she said recently. She grew up in Jackson Center, almost friendless.
“It’s been rough,” she admitted. Chupp suffered 10 to 15 complex partial seizures a day. She would just stare into space and then become very fatigued.
“It was hard, having to go to the doctors all the time, being put on more and more medicine because they could not find out why I was having seizures or get any medicine to help control them more. That made me gain weight more and more as I got older. So I really didn’t have lot of friends, maybe due to being sick a lot or just being different. I was made fun of in school, and it just seeemed like no one had cared, in my eyes at least.”
She became very depressed and attempted suicide more than once.
Things began to change, however, when, not long after graduating in 1997 from Jackson Center High, she underwent brain surgery.
She had been hospitalized in Sidney and then transported by Care Flight to Dayton. The doctors there sent her to Cincinnati, where she was in the epilepsy unit of the University of Cincinnati Hospital for a week.
“We could remove part of the right temporal lobe to see if it would help,” surgeons suggested.
“While I was in recovery, I hemorrhaged in the brain and had a small mini-stroke that left me completely paralyzed on my whole left side,” Chupp said. She went into rehab at Upper Valley Medical Center, and it was then that a friend suggested that Chupp go to church.
She began to attend services at the Sidney Apostolic Temple, where she is still a member.
“A couple months after I started going to church, I could walk again,” she said. “It was a lot of work, learning to walk. It took nine months. I fell a lot. To this day, I still trip over my feet.”
A year passed with no seizures, and suddenly, they started to occur while Chupp was sleeping.
“I start to talk in my sleep, and then I have a grand mal seizure. If (my husband’s) able to wake me up from the partial seizure, he can stop me from having a grand mal seizure,” she said.
Chupp had assumed she would never marry. But she met Donnie, originally from Indianapolis, online in a chat room sponsored by the church. She had been told she could never have children. But six months after a second brain surgery — in 2005 to remove scar tissue from the early surgery — she found she was pregnant.
“I was shocked. It was joyous,” she said.
She and Donnie are the parents of Preston, 11, and Emma, 8. They also foster-parent several other children each year.
When Chupp decided to go to college, she searched online for possible scholarships and discovered the UCB opportunity.
“UCB is a global, biopharmaceutical research company. At UCB, everything we do starts with a simple question: ‘How will this make a difference in the lives of people living with severe diseases?’ We have a passionate, long-term commitment to discovering and developing innovative medicines that transform the lives of people living with severe diseases. We do that by connecting with patients and their families around the world, gaining new perspectives to drive innovation and offer the hope of a new generation of therapies that are helping transform lives,” Funk said.
The scholarship program was established in 2005 and is open to people with epilepsy, their family members and their caregivers. This year, more than 500 people from across the country applied. Recipients were selected by a panel of medical professionals specializing in neurology and patient advocates.
The winners this year are from Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Mississippi and Minnesota in addition to Ohio.
“Amy stood out to the selection committee as a persistent and committed individual, and her story of wanting to return to nursing school and give back in the healthcare community was particularly compelling,” Funk said.
Chupp enrolled expecting to study nursing, but is now having second thoughts.
“I was very hesitant about going back to school after being out for 20 years,” she said. “I don’t think my body could take the stress of getting a nursing degree. It’s stressful to try to be a mom and go to school.” She’s considering a change of major to communications.
“I like to give presentations,” she noted. And she’s organizing a purse bingo fundraiser to support the Epilepsy Foundation of Western Ohio. It’s planned for March 10 from 3 to 6 p.m. in the VFW hall, 2841 Wapakoneta Ave. Tickets will cost $20 and will be available at the Sidney Daily New beginning in February and at the door the day of the event.
Winning the scholarship gave a boost to Chupp’s self-confidence.
“It means that I can achieve something that I wasn’t able to do when I was younger,” she said. “It’s showed me I’m able to do anything you can put your mind to. You never know. I might just own my own business one day.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.