Lifestyle & Human Interest

Little Girl Suffered More Than 100 Seizures a Day Except When She Watched Mr. Rogers


One of the amazing things about life is how so many people struggle without complaining despite suffering from difficult health conditions. On one hand, you have your everyday issues such as hypertension and diabetes.

Others suffer from heart disease, lupus and multiple sclerosis. And still, other people must deal with cancer, COPD and Alzheimer’s.

Yet as horrible as these illnesses are (and they truly are horrible), they’re at least somewhat commonly encountered by the medical community. Beth Usher faced a disorder that few at the time could comprehend.

“I had up to 100 seizures a day as a 5-year-old child,” she wrote in The Mighty. “Often during a seizure, I would fall and bang my head on the floor or whatever presented itself in my descent.”

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Beth hadn’t always faced such terrifying bodily malfunctions. Up until the age of 5, she was an ordinary little girl.

But while horsing around on the playground one day, she experienced a seizure. And those seizures grew worse and worse in number and duration as time progressed.

It wasn’t until her parents took her to Johns Hopkins University where she met with renowned brain surgeon Ben Carson that they understood what was happening. The Baltimore Sun reported that her brain was being consumed by Rasmussen’s encephalitis, an inflammatory disorder, and the only solution was to remove half of it.

While her parents tried to grapple with the reality of Beth’s medical situation, life itself soldiered on, and they’d only found one thing that could help her. “The only way for my mom to shower and dress for work without worrying was to prop me up with soft pillows and place me in front of the TV with my 7-year-old brother, Brian, beside me,” Beth explained.

“She turned on the TV show ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,’ and I did not have a single seizure during the show’s duration. Something in his voice calmed the electrical circuits in my injured brain and allowed my body some rest.”

Beth soon developed a strong connection with the television host, so as her surgery date neared, her mother wrote to Fred Rogers’ assistant. She explained how the program had helped her daughter.

The only thing Beth’s mother expected was perhaps an autographed picture and a note. But instead, the young girl got a phone call a week prior to the terrible procedure, a call from the show’s star himself.

“I heard a familiar voice and felt immediately at ease,” Beth said. “Mister Rogers asked me about my brain surgery, and I told him things that I did not even tell my parents.”

Soon after, Beth found herself driving seven hours to Baltimore, listening to tapes of Mister Rogers the whole way. The surgery proved a success, but prior to it, Beth’s brother was so worried that she might die that Dr. Carson, her surgeon paused beforehand to pray with him.

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Still, according to the Hartford Courant, Beth lay in a coma for six weeks following the procedure due to a swelling brain stem. And who would come to visit her but Mister Rogers himself?

He brought his famous dolls and sat and talked with her for an hour. He never publicized the event, and Beth would eventually recover and lead a largely ordinary light.

“Rogers once said that he’d visualize just one person sitting behind the camera in order to make a personal connection,” Beth’s mom said. “It really worked with this one.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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