TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A new law signed by Governor Abbott will benefit students across Texas who deal with epilepsy or seizures of other sorts.
Sam’s Law requires Texas public school employees to be trained in seizure recognition and seizure response.
“I would just have seizures randomly all the time,” said Makayla Benkula, a high school senior who suffers from epilepsy. “I would go to school and have seizures and my teachers would think I was acting out and I was a behavioral student and I was just being a bad student overall."
Benkula testified in front of the House and the Senate on behalf of Sam’s Law and told the story of how she once didn’t feel good in class, so she asked the teacher to go to the nurse’s office. The teacher, believing that she was acting out, called her to the front of the class. While in front of the class, Benkula collapsed and had a seizure.
“Then I got diagnosed and I told my teachers that I had epilepsy,” said Benkula. “They didn’t really do anything about it."
Now that Governor Abbott has passed Sam’s Law — creating seizure smart schools throughout Texas — Benkula said she’s happy for herself and for others like her.
“It’s amazing because I don’t feel like a joke anymore," said Benkula. “It feels amazing because I feel like everyone else with epilepsy is going to be taken care of and doesn’t have to go through what I went through.”
Aside from students feeling safe going to school, the law also provides parents some assurance that their children will be safe.
“He goes to a public Austin school and I never quite know if there’s a substitute teacher or substitute aid or if he’s in the art room; have they been trained? I don’t know," said Katie Graham, the mother of eight-year-old Elliott, who suffers from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. “I don’t really have any guarantee that they have been trained."
Graham said the new law changes a lot for her.
“There’s consistency across the state and that gives me a lot of piece of mind," said Graham. “We will confidently send him to third grade next year, knowing that everyone that will come in contact with him will be trained in seizure response.”
Graham also said if her son could speak, he’d have a lot of people to thank.
“Elliott doesn’t have a lot of language, he’s developmentally delayed," said Graham. “But if he could, he would say thank you; thank you so much to all the people involved. Representative Clardy, Senator Hughes and especially Governor Abbott.”
Benkula and Graham said they were honored to be a part of the bill’s passage.
“I feel proud that we have come this far and that we’re going to ensure the safety of other people with epilepsy," said Benkula.