The Rotary Club of Quesnel recently presented a Paul Harris Fellowship Award to Natasha Wasmuth, the founder of epilepsyQuesnel.
“Many of you will know Natasha Wasmuth as the publisher of Coffee Break. Hopefully you also know her through her work in raising awareness for epilepsy,” Rotary 2019-20 president Simon Turner said as he presented the award, completing a piece of unfinished and important business from last Rotary year. “As all Rotarians know, Paul Harris is considered the founding father of Rotary and, after he died in 1947, the Paul Harris Fellowship Award was created in 1957 as a way of recognizing financial contributions to The Rotary Foundation, along with expressing appreciation for substantial contributions to humanitarian service.
On behalf of Rotary Club of Quesnel, in recognition of her substantial contribution and demonstrating how much a single person can achieve, it was our honour to be presenting Natasha with her own Paul Harris Fellowship Award.”
Roughly one in 100 people have epilepsy, and about 40,000 people in B.C. alone have it, explained Turner.
“For many, various medications can be taken to deliver a measure of control over the seizures, but for some, the medications don’t work well, if they work at all,” he said. “One of those in Natasha. After nearly 18 years of seizures, an MRI revealed a lesion in her brain and that led to all manner of tests at the Seizure Investigation Unit at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), the only unit of its kind in B.C. with – get this – two beds. All those tests resulted in a surgical cure in August 2013. In the year before, Natasha suffered 112 seizures; in the seven years and counting since…not one!”
Speaking at the Rotary Club’s Nov. 19 meeting, Turner explained that VGH estimated another two beds in the Seizure Investigation Unit would cost about $865,000.
“Five months into her 10-month recovery after the surgery, Natasha began fundraising, and, along with many other communities across Canada, March became Quesnel’s Epilepsy Awareness Month – purple cookies at Quesnel Bakery, purple gel manicures and pedicures at Paradise Spa, purple ribbons at Fraserview Pharmacy … she even got Juno- and Grammy Award-winner Alex Cuba to perform at The Occidental – twice,” he said. “Thirty-five thousand dollars later, and Vancouver Coastal Health took up the torch, began a major fundraising campaign, and beds three and four opened in December 2019.”