By Laura Brown
Triplicate staff writer
Karla Brown quit her job at a large insurance company a year ago and put all of her belongings in storage.
Now shes walking from Seattle to Washington D.C. to raise money for epilepsy research and treatment.
Perhaps someday there will be a cure for seizure disorders but until then I will work to raise money and awareness, Brown said.
Brown suffered from epilepsy herself but was successfully cured 20 years ago when she underwent brain surgery to remove solid scar tissue that accumulated after severe fevers as a young child. Her transcontinental trek is in recognition of her 20-year anniversary without seizures.
Fund raising is not new to Brown. In her hometown of McPherson, Kan., Brown put together Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners annually for six years and raised as much as $8,000 for community causes.
Brown marched forth on March 4. So far she has walked 130 miles in Washington and 363 miles in Oregon.
Ive dropped six pant sizes, Brown said. In a month shes dropped from a size 20 down to a 14. She estimates that her total mileage for the trip will be about 4,500 miles.
Before leaving Seattle, she trained at the YMCA in Kansas. Her trainers donated their time. While Brown was concerned about her weight, her trainers were more interested in building her endurance through swimming and weight lifting.
Brown is well-equipped for her expedition. She pushes a cart loaded with 250 pounds of gear. The cart was made for her by a couple of elderly gentlemen from her home town and is weighted down with raingear, camping gear, clothing, a telephone, an e-mail message machine, and one heckuva good first aid kit.
So far she has had the good fortune to receive aid from various Lions Club members and other individuals who have helped transport her cumbersome cart. Many restaurant and motel merchants also offered her free meals and discount lodging.
Gary Taylor and Perry Emery, owners of the Ravenwood Motel in Klamath, first heard of Brown when reading an article in the Triplicate. They sent her an e-mail message offering free lodging if she stopped by their motel. They also arranged for a free meal at Shari Strassers Country Club Grill in Klamath. Brown kept up correspondence with Taylor and Emery by sending updated e-mail journal excerpts of her adventures and said she is excited to finally meet them.
Taylor, who has multiple sclerosis, said he found Browns mission a worthy one.
I have my own challenges and awareness about things is important, he said. Its hard for people to know what you go through.
Some of the highlights of Browns trip include whale watching and deep sea fishing.
The only two things that matter in life (right now) are a tub and a bed, she said.
Her travels have led her to take notice of a lot of roadside garbage. Besides household garbage, Brown has seen many tire rims, hubcaps and bungee cords. Someone chucked an exercise bike over a ravine and it hung upside down from a tree, she said.
I have a much higher opinion of outhouses than I did a month ago, Brown said, smiling, when she referred to the lack of facilities along state highways.
The most memorable experience so far was her first night camped in a tent. Before starting the trip, she had never camped before.
She said she recalls how she pitched her tent, climbed into her sleeping bag fully clothed and armed with a flashlight, alarmclock, phone, pepper spray, and a whistle and fell asleep thinking, What if a bear comes and eats me for a midnight snack?
Fortunately, she awoke the next frosty morning to find herself still in one piece.
According to Brown, epilepsy is a condition in which someone has unprovoked seizures two or more separate times in their life. Statistics show 2.7 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with epilepsy and worldwide the number jumps to 60 million, Brown said.
Epilepsy is usually treatable with drugs, brain surgery, special diets or a vagus nerve stimulator, a device which controls seizures with small electric pulses.