You’d think I would watch more of it since I’ve been a Howie Mandel fan since his “Bobby’s World” days (I told you I wasn’t a television snob) when Rach and I would laugh and I’d try to mimic the Wisconsin accent of his mother (walking around the house saying, “Don'tcha know” in a funny voice always got a giggle from my daughter).
Even though I was a sporadic viewer of AGT, I somehow managed to catch the act of the kid who had been bullied, had epilepsy and did a beautiful act with indoor kite flying. The kite flying was mesmerizing and this kid’s story was inspirational. Connor Doran made it to the Top 12 a couple of years ago and continues to inspire with his kite flying act.
I’m very excited and honored that he took time out of his busy schedule to talk with me about his epilepsy.
Please meet Connor: an America’s Got Talent Top 12 finalist, an Indoor Kite Flier and strong Epilepsy Advocate.
He’s also met Howie Mandel.
Robert’s Sister: When were you first diagnosed with epilepsy? Was it a lengthy process to get diagnosed?
I was diagnosed at age 4. I started having petit mal seizures just before my 4th birthday. I was blinking a lot, and staring and no one really knew what it was. I was having 30 – 40 “episodes” a day. My mom videotaped one of the episodes and took it to my regular doctor. He sent me for an EEG and I had a seizure during the EEG.
The doctors raised my amount of meds with no results. Then they added Keppra. That seemed to help for about three months.
Then the seizures returned. So it was back to see Dr. Stephen Ireland. He had been treating me for the past eight years and was really patient and understanding. He did some adjusting of my medication amounts, but then eventually added Clonazepam.
On a side note:
In Oregon, you have to be seizure free for three months before you can drive. I was just at the age to take my permit test and I was really excited about that. My first attempt at the written test did not go well. My second attempt I missed one question too many to pass. I was really disappointed, and my mom and I were talking about when I could go back and take the test again. Later that evening I had a grand mal seizure. It was then I realized that I was not going to drive. It was too dangerous for me to drive. The medications I was on were making me too sleepy and my focus would not be good. I was not comprehending all the info I would need to operate a 2000 pound car. With my seizures coming back, I was concerned I would have a problem while driving. I did not want to take any risks of hurting anyone else or myself. It was a tough decision for a 15 year old to make. All my friends were learning to drive and excited about it. But I made the right decision, and at age 19, I still do not drive.
I am currently taking four seizure medications: Clonazepam, Zarontin, Keppra and Lamictal as well as Zoloft for anxiety.
Robert’s Sister: Do you think the medications affect how you feel?
Yes, the medications add to my anxiety. When I first started Keppra it made me irritable but that has gone away. I sleep a lot, because many of the meds that I am on make me really tired. I have been able to overcome some of the tiredness. One thing I have trouble with is eating. I am not very hungry and I have to be reminded to eat regularly. That is a side effect of three of the meds I am on.
Robert’s Sister: Have you done any advocacy work (individually or with an organization) or participated in any research studies? What made you want to be involved?
For the past two years, I have been performing all over North America. Before each event or performance I connect with the Epilepsy Foundation in that area and we try to work together to raise awareness and help others connect so they can get the support and help they need. I have just recently done performances to raise money to support the Sparrow Clubs, the National Epilepsy Foundation, and others. It’s important to me to stay focused on helping others. It only takes a few words of encouragement to someone to make a difference in their lives. This past year I have done 24 events so far. Here are just some of the events I have been honored to be at.
• Keynote Speaker at the National Walk for Epilepsy in Washington DC
• Developed The Dare to Dream Team to raise Epilepsy Awareness and raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation.
• Invited to perform at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Washington DC
[Editor’s note: for a full list, please visit Connor’s website.]
Robert’s Sister: How has epilepsy affected your life?
Epilepsy has changed my life. It was not a good situation for me because I had trouble with schoolwork, and I was being bullied. I had issues with understanding some of the subjects.
I have developed OCD, and an anxiety disorder, due to having epilepsy.
I thought I was totally alone. The idea of joining a support group made me feel like I was different. I didn’t want to be treated differently. I truly believed that I could accomplish whatever I wanted.
I was starting to fly kites when I was 14 and realized how helpful it was for my stress and anxiety.
After I went to Las Vegas on the show, I was eliminated. A couple months later, I got a phone call from my producer on America’s Got Talent. He told me I was being considered as a Wild Card for the live show in Los Angeles. That was a pretty awesome day for me. It was not a sure thing, but I was working hard practicing just in case. The day I got the call to be in Los Angeles in six days was just an incredible feeling. I was nervous, but so excited to be heading to the live quarter finals.
Here is a video of that show:
America's Got Talent: Wild Card Show