Overcoming Epilepsy: Joey's pursuit of a college degree

Published: Nov. 8, 2017 at 10:02 PM CST
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It was his junior year in high school when Joey Rubin's life changed forever.

"About to jump in the shower one night and it just happened," said Rubin.

His seizure led doctors to discover a tumor and he needed surgery to remove part of his brain.

"In my lower temporal lobe, which Doctor D told me as a joke, it's called your college degree, it's short-term memory, studying for tests and stuff like that and after he told me that I'm like 'why are you laughing at that," said Joey as he laughs about it now.

It was in the hospital following surgery that Joey says he began to learn about the chronic disorder that impacts one out of 26 people in this country at some point during their life.

"Epilepsy is a team that you don't what to be on, but once you're on it, you're on it for life, no matter how many seizures you're going to have, no matter if you have a brain tumor or not, it's going to be with you."

Joey lived seizure-free until after his sophomore year at St. Norbert College. But then they started again, leading to two emergency brain surgeries and leaving Joey with two more years of college to complete all without his short term memory.

"A roller coaster to say the least," said Joey.

To get by, Joey developed some tricks. He started using nicknames to remember the names of his professors and other students. And when it came to his studies, he had to plan well in advance and give up the idea of last-minute cramming.

"When it comes to studying for tests I start studying about 8 days before the test to put it in my long-term memory. In total, I would study for 28 hours, starting 8 days before," said Joey.

Now a senior, Joey has gone two years without a seizure.

"If I hit five years, no seizure, going low on the medication and in about six, six and a half years I'd be weaned off of it. That's the goal."

Joey's courageous journey through college is earning the praise of Packers quarterback Brett Hundley, whose sister and nephew are epileptic and the reason he became a spokesperson for the Epilepsy Foundation.

"It makes me really happy because there's a lot of stuff, obviously with medication being one, its affects you really hard and just having the seizures in themselves, that's a day's worth of energy gone and it takes a lot to get over that, to dedicate yourself, I know you got to be tired, I know you got to be fighting everything, and to make it over that and still push through, it's awesome and it's a blessing honestly," said Brett Hundley, Packers quarterback.

A communications major, with a dream to become a sports broadcaster, Joey is set to graduate in May. And considering what he's overcome, he just might be the proudest 3.0 grad in St. Norbert history.

"One of my favorite TV shows, How I Met Your Mother, and one of the quotes from the show is 'it's been a long difficult road, thank God we finally got here,' thank God I'm going to graduate from school, don't get me wrong I love it here, I do, but I think the saddest thing is going to be when I come back here for my friend's wedding six weeks after I graduate, I'm just going to look about and be like God, I did it, I did it." said Joey.

"I've been pushed around, I've been made fun of for being an epileptic before, but when I get that diploma, great things are going to happen."

During his time at Saint Norbert College, Joey raised more than $14,000 for the Children's Miracle Network by participating in the college's annual dance marathon.

Joey will join hundreds of students on Saturday to benefit Children's Hospital, the hospital he gives credit for saving his life.