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Songwriter draws inspiration from epilepsy

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Abbie Ailes plays violin as she warms up with Gary Campbell, right, and Tom Camp before Ailes and the Fisher Catholic Chamber Choir record Campbell’s song ‘There’s Worse Things Than That’ on Nov. 15, 2011, at St. Mark’s Parish in Lancaster. Campbell, who suffers from seizures, will perform several of his songs on Saturday during the National Walk for Epilepsy in Washington, D.C. / Matthew Berry/Eagle-Gazette

When Gary Campbell sits down to write a song, he often doesn’t have to look further than his own life to find inspiration.

“Everything I write about is true; I don’t lie. I don’t make things up,” said Campbell, who lives in Lancaster.

One of the personal topics that has come up again and again in Campbell’s songwriting is his 10-year battle with seizures.

His willingness to sing openly about his medical condition caught the attention of the Maryland-based Epilepsy Foundation, which recently invited him to perform live on Saturday during the National Walk for Epilepsy in Washington, D.C.

“I plan on doing three or four of my own songs. I get a half hour and they want me to talk between songs about myself,” Campbell said. “I’m honored. I feel pretty privileged.”

Since its inception, the National Walk for Epilepsy has raised almost $7 million to advance access to care, fund research and educate the public.

During the event, participants will walk three miles, starting at the Washington Monument and continuing around the Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jefferson memorials.

Campbell, a country artist who signed with Banner Records in 2002, said this will not be the first time he had performed before a crowd of people who understand the fear that comes from living with epilepsy.

In November, he sang four of his songs for a crowd of 3,000 people during an epilepsy seminar at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus.

“All four songs were about seizures and it was unreal; people were crying,” he said. “A lot of the parents there had young children who were going through the early stages of seizures. … One woman told me, ‘My daughter is going through what you’re going through and she’s only 12.’”

Campbell, who experiences his seizures in “clusters” on a monthly basis, said the lyrics for his songs can come to him at any time, and anywhere.

He said one such song, entitled “No Clock, No Calendar,” came to him when he was at River Valley Mall in Lancaster.

“I started thinking, ‘I could be standing in a crowded shopping mall, could be walking around the neighborhood, when I think I’m doing good, it hits me out of the blue,’” he sang. “I called the song ‘No Clock, No Calendar’ because I never know when I’m going to have a seizure. It just comes out of the blue.”

Campbell already has released two CDs. In 2011, he recorded one of his self-penned songs, “There’s Worse Things Than That,” with the Fisher Catholic Chamber Choir. The song, which Campbell wrote after experiencing a seizure, talks about the importance of putting one’s problems into perspective.

“I thought about my son who was in the Army and the earthquakes in Japan, which were happening at that time. … It made me wonder, ‘Why am I complaining about a seizure or the price of gas when there are worse things going on?’” Campbell said in 2011.

Campbell said he hopes his music will comfort others on Saturday who also are suffering from seizures or who know someone living with epilepsy.

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1 Comment

  1. I was born three months early(because my mom as epilepsy and was having both sleeping and grandmal seizures) with a apgar score being so low there was a large decision on wether or not to declare me dead right there but because of one brave nurse who told the doctors to shove it I was crying no matter how weak that meant I was breathing the could give me no chance and have that blood on there hands or give me a fighting chance. Fearing for there jobs they gave me a chance but still told my mom to say good bye because I wouldn’t live five minutes. My mom told them “no, her baby girl was a fighter”. 8 hours later I was still alive, then it happened my tiny little body started to go in to convulsions and I had my first seizure. The doctor’s told my mom that if I made it past 12 hours old and that was a huge if i would have severe brain damage. I’m proud to say I’m now twenty still a tiny little half pint at 5′ 1 1/2″ and 115 lbs. Also finished school with a 4.2 GPA (yes that does exist, it’s just very rare. Would have graduated 10th grade year but choose to stay in school) and the only health problems i have besides partial epilepsy seizures and non-epileptic stress seizures is diminished hearing, slight sight issues and the normal weakened immune system of being premature. I’m so glad to see people like Mr. Campbell being so honest and open about their epilepsy. I cry every time I read something like this.

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