Brittany Perry, 23, can instantly recall the terror she felt as a young girl watching her mother convulse in seizures for the first time. Her family was out eating at a Ryan’s restaurant, and her mother, Deanna Dick, was chatting with a friend when her physical state quickly changed. Before Perry could move, her father, Billy, had flipped over their table to reach his wife before she hit the floor.
That traumatic episode and others like it were recently included in a piece Perry, a resident of Raleigh County, successfully submitted to the Chicken Soup for the Soul publishing company for its recent book, “Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries: 101 Stories of Hope, Healing and Hard Work.” The book was published in June. When Perry was 10, her mother was diagnosed with grand mal seizures. According to Mayo Clinic, that form occurs when the electrical activity over the entire surface of the brain becomes abnormally synchronized. It is sometimes caused by traumatic head injuries, which Perry and her family cite as the cause for her mother’s diagnosis.
In the book, Perry explains, “My mother had been in an abusive relationship before she met my father. To this day, she still has a tiny piece of glass embedded in the back of her neck from abuse.”
Although she writes daily as a stay-at-home mom, Perry said this particular piece took her longer to complete than usual.
“Because of the way my mom sustained her brain injury, it’s a very delicate subject. I had to find a way to write about it without mortifying her.”
Perry’s story recounts two incidents when she was present during her mother’s seizures. She recalls an episode from 10 years ago when her family’s Jack Russell Terrier bit her hand in the middle of the night to alert her that her mother was experiencing a seizure.
For the most part, those scary times for Perry and her family are a thing of the past, since her mother switched medications from Dilantin to Tegratol.
“Tegratol changed everything for all of us,” she wrote. In more than decade, Perry’s mother has only suffered from two seizures and now holds a full-time secretary position.
Perry published a story one time prior in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader’s Choice 20th Anniversary Edition” in 2013, but said this second published piece was a cathartic experience. And she wasn’t the only one.
“My mom read it and she felt relief ... . She realized she wasn’t alone. All the [“Chicken Soup for the Soul”] books are like that. They connect people and they are true.”
Perry said she has loved writing since childhood. After her sophomore year at Liberty High School, she attended the Governor’s School for the Arts at Marshall University. She studied creative writing during the residential program held during the summer.
“It was one of the best experiences that I have ever had,” she said. “Where I’m from ... athletics are over academics a lot. And people who are smart and participate in class, they generally get teased. I had a lot of bullying in my past; I mean a lot. When I went there [at GSA], I didn’t have to hide my books. I didn’t have to worry about my property getting destroyed. It was liberating to be there.”
After graduating from high school in 2009, Perry attended Concord University for one year to study English.
She is now lives in Raleigh County with her husband, Charles, and their 2-year-old son William.
According to Chicken Soup for the Soul’s website, writers featured in a book will receive $200 in payment along with 10 free copies of the book.
When asked about how it feels to have her stories published, Perry smiled and said, “It is one of the best feelings in the world.”
Reach Anna Patrick