Through her River Days platform ‘Wake Up Narcolepsy’ Miss Wheelersburg 2017, Gracie Blankenship, hopes to provide the community with a better understanding of what narcolepsy is and how it impacts those living with the condition.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. There is no cure for narcolepsy at this time.
Both Blankenship and her mother, Sheri Bailey, are narcoleptic.
“My mom was diagnosed in 2011 and I was diagnosed in 2014,” said Blankenship. “There’s no cure, so it’s trying to figure out how to cope with it and how it can be treated. I wake up with very limited energy so I have to be able to pace myself and it makes being a teenager a lot different because everybody else can go out and play sports or participate for however long they want to. But when I’m tired, I’m done.”
Despite this, Blankenship is involved with Wheelersburg’s Select Choir, musicals and various other committees within the school.
Her mother Sheri added, “Your brain never knows when it’s supposed to be asleep or awake and narcolepsy interferes with that greatly, all day long, all night long. Some people, like myself, my brain never goes into R.E.M. (Rapid eye movement) sleep so my brain thinks that I’m never sleeping, it’s the same with her. It’s a debilitating disorder but we just try to go about living with it the best we can.”
Outside of her mother, Blankenship only knows two others who have been diagnosed with the condition.
“The average time from onset to an official diagnosis takes around 15 years,” said Blankenship. “So many people are misdiagnosed. They’re told ‘oh that’s stress,’ or ‘you’re just not getting enough sleep,’ luckily I was diagnosed very soon after onset, I was diagnosed within a year or two, but that’s due in part to the fact that my mom had been diagnosed and narcolepsy can sometimes be hereditary.”
To raise awareness, Blankenship hosted a ‘Night Out With Narcolepsy,’ mother-daughter “mom-prom” dance. Girls of all ages were invited to bring their mothers and dress-up for a night of dancing and games.
At the event, Blankenship shared information on narcolepsy and her perspective as someone who is effected by the condition. She also shared an informative website that has recently been airing commercials, www.notjusttired.com, that helps to explain what narcolepsy is and how it affects people.
“Dancing can be very demanding for me, so I just paced myself. I thought ‘who doesn’t like dancing?’ And ‘who wouldn’t want to come out and have a good time for a worthy cause?’ Everything went really well, I had a lot of help from my mom and other River Days candidates. It went smoothly, I think everyone who came out had a fun time and enjoyed it.”
Through the event, Blankenship was able to raise $200, which was donated to the Southern Ohio Medical Center Sleep Diagnostic Lab for further research into narcolepsy treatments and resources.
To follow Blankenship on her journey, you can find her on Facebook by visiting www.facebook.com/goburgpirates or by searching “Miss Wheelersburg 2017.” River Days will be held August 31 through September 4. For more information and a schedule of events, you can visit www.portsmouthriverdays.org.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.