A Commitment to Giving Back
Kris Hoffman grew up in Wisconsin and now lives in Seaside, Calif. She has worked for various agencies within the Department of Defense for over 30 years. She currently manages approximately 120 employees in the area of data analysis and information technology with the goal of improving the lives of our service members and their families.
epilepsyUSA: How were you diagnosed with epilepsy?
Kris Hoffman: The type of seizures I had were a partial complex, and so it actually took quite some time. Part of my story is just getting diagnosed. I went through an, ‘Oh, you’re just an overemotional female’ problem. ‘You need to learn to stand up to your boss’ and all that stuff. Finally a friend of mine actually witnessed me having a seizure and told me about it. Other people had seen me do it but never said anything to me. Of course, I didn’t know I was doing it, because you don’t know. I live by myself. So when my friend noticed it, she was able to tell me exactly what had transpired from her perspective, which I then was able to take to the doctor, which led to the eventual proper diagnosis.
epilepsyUSA: Did you go to a neurologist?
Kris Hoffman: Yes, after that initial doctor. Back then I was on an insurance policy where you had to get a referral, so I had to go back inside my network and then get a referral to a neurologist. And then they did the EEG. I didn’t have a seizure until—of course—they turned the machine off, but I did have it in front of the lady who was running the machine. She was able to do a visual diagnosis, but they didn’t capture it on the actual recording.
epilepsyUSA: How did it feel to you to finally have a name for what was happening to you?
Kris Hoffman: It was kind of an unknown. I mean, up until the point when my friend actually told me what she had witnessed, to me it felt more like I was just having heart palpitations.
epilepsyUSA: How did your friend describe your seizures to you?
Kris Hoffman: She said, ‘You just weren’t there. You were somewhere else, like I could wave my hand in front of your eyes and they didn’t change.’ Then I subsequently talked to people in my office about it and they started telling me, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve seen you do that.’ I also rubbed my fingers together.
epilepsyUSA: And you just had no awareness that you were doing this?
Kris Hoffman: Correct.
epilepsyUSA: How long do you think it had been going on?
Kris Hoffman: I would occasionally have times where I thought, ‘What just happened?’ But they were really splitsecond kinds of things that went on for several years.
epilepsyUSA: Was it a relief to get a diagnosis?
Kris Hoffman: It was a relief to not be accused of being a drunk, because that was an issue every time I went to a doctor. He’d say, ‘You’re drinking too much, because you’re having blackouts.’
epilepsyUSA: That’s awful that they would make that kind of assumption.
Kris Hoffman: Well, they’re looking for a reason. I got called an overemotional female, then they said, ‘You must be drinking too much,’ or ‘You’re not being honest about your drinking.” My initial response from doctors was anything they could come up with other than epilepsy.
epilepsyUSA: What happened after you were diagnosed?
Kris Hoffman: The doctor put me on medications. They worked for a while and then they stopped working. So then he changed the meds. They worked for a while and then they stopped working. And then he referred me to the Stanford Epilepsy Clinic in Palo Alto, Calif. As we were talking about options, they said I was potentially a candidate for surgery, but they would have to run a series of tests to find out. I asked them if I could pursue both avenues at the same time—working on adjusting the meds and running the tests to find out if I was the right candidate for surgery. It turns out I was right for surgery.
epilepsyUSA: How did you feel about that?
Kris Hoffman: Relieved in some sense, because the meds were still not working entirely.
epilepsyUSA: When did you have the surgery?
Kris Hoffman: I had the surgery in 2001 and, knock on wood, I’ve been seizure-free since then.
epilepsyUSA: How has that changed your life?
Kris Hoffman: It gave me back the freedom that I so desperately wanted.
epilepsyUSA: So you can drive, you can do anything you want, right?
Kris Hoffman: Yes. And I’m no longer on any medications either.
epilepsyUSA: You are active with the Foundation and definitely committed to giving back. Why is that?
Kris Hoffman: There are a couple of different reasons. One is that I was a biochemistry major in college, so I know that unless people go and try new things, situations will never improve. Another reason is that if somebody hadn’t paid for them to do the research and find a solution, I wouldn’t have benefited from those medical advances myself. Another reason is, I went through having my license pulled and I fought to get it back. I want to support people who need it so that, even if they can’t be cured, at least I can help make their lives easier.