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MOUNT PLEASANT — Two Kwik Trip employees came to Ashley Christenson’s rescue on New Year’s Eve when she had a grand mal seizure.

Christenson, who is epileptic, was at Kwik Trip Store #580, 6801 Washington Ave., when the incident occurred. She had just finished checking out when an aura appeared, indicating that she would soon have a seizure.

Accompanied by her eight-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, Ashley found the nearest employee, Assistant Manager Paul Janowiak, and alerted him about the emergent situation.

Managers safely assist throughout seizure

At that moment, Janowiak quickly jumped into action. Brooklyn was able to make the assistant manager aware that her grandma, Kim Christenson, was the kitchen manager at the store. He paged her over the headset for additional help.

While waiting for Kim, Paul stayed by Ashley’s side. Once Kim arrived, the two Kwik Trip employees gently lowered Ashley to the ground.

“He noticed it. A lot of people wouldn’t,” said Kim. “If you don’t know seizures, and if you don’t know the person, how do you even know that they look different?”

During the event, Brooklyn went to get Ashley’s fiancé and caregiver, Charles Phillips, who was out at the car when the incident started.

“I’m still very grateful for him (Janowiak), helping me get down to the ground and making sure that I was safe. I am beyond grateful. There are really no words,” Ashley said.

While Ashley doesn’t remember the situation, others recounted the event to her: Kim was stabilizing her head, and Paul had Ashley’s body tilted on her side, in order to keep her as safe as possible during the episode.

“I did not bite my tongue, which was a huge indicator that they got me on my side,” said Ashley.

Ashley, finacé Charles and 8-year old Brooklyn. – Photo courtesy of Ashley Christenson

Others told Ashley and she reports, “Paul was shaking really bad. He was like, scared for me, but yet through it all, he kept me safe.”

Ashley was so appreciative to Paul for his actions as well as being able to get her mom to help.

Using humor to cope

The seizure ran its course and Ashley woke up, without injury, surrounded by familiar faces. Kim was able to direct her daughter to take her emergency medication as well, once she was able to swallow.

“So one of the staff members, who I don’t know, went and got a chair so that they could lift me up into the chair to sit up,” she said. “I come out of it (the seizure) and I think I’m a Kwip Trip employee. And I start saying ‘See you next time.'”

The episode and loss of consciousness can cause people to come out of the incident confused, tired, or not properly oriented. While she does not work at Kwik Trip, she is extremely thankful for the employees who did step up, including her mom.

Even during this difficult situation, the humor of her thinking she was an employee relieved some of the stress felt by everyone.

Lifetime of challenges

Ashley has carried a diagnosis of epilepsy since she was five years old. She recalled how it started in her sleep, then progressed to staring off, and finally grand mal seizures. At 15 years old, she even had a temporal lobectomy to help control the episodes.

Now, at 34 years old, she is grateful to Paul Janowiak, who stepped up to assist her while she was in need. Not every episode goes as smoothly as the one did at Kwik Trip on New Year’s Eve.

“If I could say something to Paul, I would probably cry. But, Paul, I would say thank you so much for being so efficient and quick. Had he left me there, instead of calling somebody over the headset, I would have fallen. Thank you for not leaving my side and staying with me and thinking to use the headset,” Ashley said.

Tips for helping someone having a seizure

As a person who lives with epilepsy, Ahley wants people to understand that seizures can happen at random, in public places, for a number of reasons.

If you happen to witness someone having a seizure, these are the tips she recommends:

  • Remain calm
  • Use a calm voice when speaking to the person
  • Get the person to lie on their side
  • Move things around so there aren’t obstacles that could pose a danger
  • Hold their head
  • Do not put anything in their mouth
  • Provide reassurance to the individual having the seizure
seizure at Kwik Trip
Ashley and her mom, Kim Christenson, around the time when Ashley underwent surgery to help control her seizures. – Photo courtesy of Ashley Christenson

While 911 was not needed for Ashley, if you do not know the individual or believe someone is having a medical emergency, get proper medical attention by calling 911.

Additional information about epilepsy can be found on the CDC website.