“Samantha Watkins is the reason all of this was started,” said Shari Dudo.
The local epilepsy awareness advocate has been dealing with the disease since it first manifested in her early 50s. Following the death of Watkins (a Kilgore High School senior) in late 2016, Dudo has taken up the #SamStrong banner and applauded the City of Kilgore Tuesday night as Mayor Ronnie Spradlin issued a proclamation to mark national Epilepsy Awareness Day, March 26, in Kilgore.
Barbara Watkins held a portrait of her daughter as she addressed the audience in the council chambers Tuesday.
“This is who we’re talking about,” she said. “This is Sam.”
The 18-year-old died in early December after days spent in ICU following a massive seizure. She had all the characteristics of epilepsy, Watkins said, but had not been officially diagnosed.
“We were not told that death was a possibility. We had no idea whatsoever … We never got the chance to get help,” she added. “It can happen.”
Many people live with seizures, affecting their entire lives, Watkins continued, and she aims to push forward on their behalf.
“I’ll do everything I can to raise awareness, for my daughter,” she said. “We’re going to do everything we can to raise money, get better medicines.
“This beautiful girl … is one of the reasons that we’re doing this.”