Jim Blowitski's Memento
When I tell people I have epilepsy, some say, “Oh, so you can’t go around bright flashing lights?” I laugh it off and say that “no, that’s not how epilepsy works. It is far more complicated than that.” They aren’t trying to be disrespectful. Some people just don’t know. I did this project to educate.
I am educating in the best way I know how, making pictures. With these images, I am telling the story of Jim Blowitski, to the best of my ability. Blowitski, a 40-year-old, Horsham, PA native, is a resident of Washington, D.C. He first had uncontrollable grand mal seizures in 2012. Doctors could not find a root cause, so they put him in a coma. The root cause turned out to be viral encephalitis, a viral infection of the brain. This unknown virus resulted in refractory (drug-resistant) epilepsy and anterograde and retrograde amnesia – the difficulty remembering and forming new memories.
This sounds bad. It is challenging, and expensive. Jim, however, lives a relatively independent, happy life in his DuPont Circle condo. He is now on full-time disability, but despite his diagnosis, a psychologist reported: “He seems to be happy and excited, even though he shouldn’t be.” He spends time volunteering, helping to set up Sunday morning service for The District Church. He also meets up with a small men’s group every Thursday morning for coffee. He is also a member of Washington D.C.’s chapter of the Epilepsy Foundation, where he is the chairman of advocacy. Over the period of three months, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Jim. I hope his story is told honestly and accurately.