United Way helps, if money is there

After 25 years of working at a financial institution, Dallas Jones decided to switch gears at age 45.

Dallas Jones readies a hot chocolate while volunteering at the Bower Kin Place facility: now working on a master’s degree.

Dallas Jones readies a hot chocolate while volunteering at the Bower Kin Place facility: now working on a master’s degree.

After 25 years of working at a financial institution, Dallas Jones decided to switch gears at age 45.

The Red Deer resident jokes she dropped banking in 2003 to pursue a nursing degree after having had “a menopausal moment.”

Jones loved working with her customers in banking, but she said she got tired of the constant pressure to sell. She thrived in the nursing program, graduating in June 2007, and went to work on a cardiac floor.

“Life was good and I was living my dream and then on May 29, 2009, sometime after midnight I had my first witnessed seizure on a night shift,” Jones said.

Five other nurses on the floor saw Jones have a seizure. Since then, she has had many more, sometimes having clusters of up to two a day for a full week.

There is no explanation.

As a result, she has lost her driver’s licence and can no longer practise nursing because she could have a seizure while helping a patient. She has to be supervised if she wants to take a bath or use electrical appliances such as an iron or an oven.

“There is a big loss of self,” said Jones, now 52. “I used to be Dallas the nurse. Now I don’t know who I am.”

But in the summer of 2009, while looking for information on her condition, she came across an epilepsy support group in Red Deer through the Central Alberta office of the Epilepsy Association of Calgary.

“It was really comforting because other people validate. There is a lot of stigma associated with epilepsy and seizures so they understand what it means to live under seizure precautions,” Jones said.

The Epilepsy Support Group has given her new friends who support her and accept her as she is. She said they understand the losses she has suffered.

“They know what it is like to lose yourself and not be able to find a new one,” Jones said.

She said there is a great need for education in the community on what to do if someone has a seizure and the epilepsy association is helping to educate the public. With the support of friends and family and those in the support group, her self confidence has improved.

Jones is pursuing her master’s in nursing through the University of Calgary and she does a great deal of volunteer work through the epilepsy association, the Bower Place Community Association as the secretary treasurer and as a member of the Arthritis Support Group.

She said none of it would be possible if the epilepsy association didn’t receive funding from the United Way of Central Alberta.

“If everyone could just donate a dollar to the United Way. My grandmother used to say save your pennies and the dollars will grow and I guess that’s how I see it now,” she said.

As of Monday the United Way of Central Alberta’s had raised only $1.4 million — 30 per cent short of its goal of $2 million. The drive ends on Jan. 27. Many area agencies depend on this funding to run programs and services.

“I don’t want to paint a gloom and doom picture,” said Heather Gardiner, CEO of the United Way of Central Alberta.

She said some companies such as Nova Chemicals are up 16 per cent in their contributions this year and she said the United Way has seen people rally around the cause.

However, she said the economy remains challenging to many people and companies.

Gardiner encouraged people to donate to help those families who have experienced a layoff over the past year and to help others who are struggling.

Gardiner said the United Way supports everything from programs that provide basic needs, such as housing, as well as outreach and support, and also helps women’s outreach, counselling programs and programs for things like the epilepsy association to educate the public and reduce the stigma of people suffering from the condition. She said another program they fund provides food for children going to school who are hungry.

“It’s small things that make a big difference,” Gardiner said.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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