ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Maria Lutz says coming to terms with an epilepsy diagnosis in the winter she turned 12 was one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. She says she can still remember the terror of her first grand mal seizure.
“It was in the middle of the night, so it wasn’t witnessed,” Maria recalls. “My parents thought I’d just had a nightmare, of course, because I did have really bad nightmares back then.”
She says her second major seizure happened on a family vacation which was followed by months of tests and waiting until finally receiving her diagnosis. Maria struggled accepting she would likely be burdened with epilepsy for the rest of her life, but at least she always had support.
“The help through my family, friends, everyone in the community helping me realize that it’s not something to be ashamed of, and it’s not my fault,” she explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Now at 17 and after a successful Responsive NeuroStimulator (RNS) device surgery, Maria says a heart-to-heart with her mom one night sparked a real brain wave to support others like her.
“There’s so many people on Facebook offering, and just begging for medication, just for one night, just one dose please, begging. And we were talking about that and I realized, why not give back instead of take,” she says.
“We always had what we needed and good insurance, so we were lucky that way, but I think it really hit her what it would have been like and what it is like for other kids who don’t have that,” explains Maria’s mom Yvonne Lutz.
So Maria decided to use her eligibility with Make-A-Wish Northeast New York to create the Maria Epilepsy Medication Emergency Fund. A $10,000 donation sponsored by a local pastor to the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York will be the first installment to help others get the life changing treatment that helped save Maria from pain and suffering.
Make-A-Wish has many options for recipients to choose from, but giving back is rare.
“We have granted four such wishes out of the nearly 2,000 that we have granted in our 34 year history. This will be the fifth,” explains Make-A-Wish Northeast New York CEO William Trigg. “Maria, we are inspired by your vision, your thoughtfulness, and generosity.”
“As a parent, I wanted her to get something for all the trouble and all the pain she’s been through, but I am very happy that she chose to help others,” says Yvonne.
“Proud, terribly proud,” chimes in Maria’s dad Richard.
Maria says she’s still reeling from the enormity of what her wish will grant for other children with epilepsy.
“Didn’t realize it till now it kinda hit me, but it does make me very happy that I can change other’s lives, even if it’s just one person,” she says. “I feel like I’m smiling wider now even than I would if I’d met Luke Bryan or Morgan Wallen.”