In 2015, 11-year-old Benny Smith began feeling strange sensations in his body that felt like small electrical jolts. Soon after, the jolts began lasting longer and growing more intense—Benny was suffering with grand mal seizures (a condition characterized by loss of consciousness and muscle spasms).
The seizures would come at various times, including during the school day where the resulting falls led to multiple concussions.
Often, his mother, Christine Ristaino, would have to pick him up in the middle of the day and bring him home since his condition made it unsafe for him to be in a classroom. Soon after the beginning of sixth grade, Benny was forced to remain at home, being taught by a tutor. An outgoing social kid who loved being around his friends, to him this was one of the most difficult parts of the illness.
In January 2016, his condition began to improve and he was able to return to the classroom. Benny and his mom, Christine, came to StoryCorps to mark the occasion and discuss how he has lived with the seizures.
Originally aired February 12, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.