Josh’s battle with epilepsy began Friday, December 6, 1996. Josh and his teammates were traveling to their high school varsity soccer game in Naples, Florida, when Josh had his first grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizure. He was 16. Neither the bus driver nor the soccer coach had a cell phone, but fortunately, one of the boys had his mother’s phone. The bus driver pulled over at an I-75 exit in Fort Myers, an ambulance was called, and Josh was taken to a nearby hospital.
Josh’s parents were already sitting in the bleachers in Naples watching the Junior Varsity game when they received the call. Friends drove them to the hospital in Ft. Myers. Their first sight of Josh was through a glass window. Josh was laying on a table, white as a sheet and scared. The technician was prepping him for an MRI. Blood had already been drawn to test for drugs. After several hours of tests, Josh was diagnosed with epilepsy and released to travel home to Sarasota with one of his soccer coaches, who happened to be a physician. Arrangements were made to see Dan Stein, MD, a Sarasota neurologist, the next morning in the Emergency Room of Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Dr. Stein prescribed Depakote and immediately cleared Josh to play soccer again.
Thankfully, the medicine was effective and Josh did not suffer another seizure for the rest of soccer season. However, Josh’s epilepsy diagnosis had another serious and unexpected effect on him – social isolation.
In January, after high school soccer season ended, the phone stopped ringing for Josh. The scary experience of witnessing the seizure impacted his friends negatively. They were afraid to be with him, afraid he would have another seizure in their presence, and afraid they would not know what to do. Even his closest friends vanished. The rest of Josh’s high school career was a very lonely time – a very difficult adjustment for a teen who loved people. Prior to his first seizure, his family home was a favorite gathering spot for many of Josh’s closest friends, especially his soccer buddies.
Josh’s frustration was only worsened by his inability to drive. When someone has a seizure in Florida, they are not allowed to drive a car for six months. Unfortunately, right before Josh was scheduled to regain his driving privileges, he suffered another seizure. This was during final exams of his junior year of high school and meant another six months of not driving – a whole year in all! Josh was devastated.
Wanting out of Sarasota for the summer of 1997, Josh joined a Tampa-based soccer team that competed in games overseas. He did not know anyone on the team when it traveled to Europe, but by the end of the trip Josh had built strong relationships with the guys. Together, they played as a team throughout Holland and Denmark. Josh had a wonderful time for three weeks, forgetting the ostracism of his junior year.
After such a great summer, returning to the reality of his senior year at Riverview High School was a tough transition for Josh. His Depakote dosage had been increased to better manage seizure activity, but the change brought additional side effects. Josh gained some weight and felt “out of it” mentally and socially, despite training with a conditioning coach. Josh started his senior year with new friends.
There was no way Josh would attend college in Florida. He wanted a fresh start with new people and selected the University of Pittsburgh. His first day on campus he was haunted by questions: “Who do I tell about my epilepsy? Who can I trust?” Josh was afraid of losing friends again. His parents asked him what he thought he should do. Josh, being Josh, said, “I need to tell people so they know. I need to trust people again”. Josh disclosed his epilepsy to his closest friends and they remain, to this day, his best friends – Jim, Brandon and Jim.
Josh was very outgoing and after his first few weeks of college he announced to his family that he knew almost all 900 students in his freshman dormitory. During his sophomore year, he decided to join a social fraternity. He survived initiation week with very little sleep and became Vice-President of Community Service. Josh held more fundraisers and managed more projects than any other person who had held this office. His favorite organizations to assist were Big Brothers Big Sisters and the local soup kitchen. Josh’s fondness for the soup kitchen was not surprising to his family or friends. All of his life, Josh enjoyed helping his mother in the kitchen. He even cooked for his floor mates in his dorm room using a toaster oven.
After graduating with a degree in finance, Josh returned to Sarasota and spent a few years as an analyst for a developer and a high-end residential builder. Ultimately, however, Josh decided to follow his passion for feeding others and attended culinary school. He wanted to be a chef and eventually, have his own restaurant.
Josh enrolled in the Culinary Institute of Florida, in West Palm Beach. Soon after classes began, he found a position as a line chef, first at the Breakers Hotel and then, with a newly opened restaurant, Seasons 52. Josh was attending school full time and working full-time. His family sincerely admired his ambition and dedication. He was a tireless worker and student, and maintained a positive attitude and an upbeat personality. Even at his busiest he always made time to reach out to people, offering to help whenever he could.
In addition to working at Seasons 52, Josh somehow found the time and energy to obtain a part-time position at Morton’s Steakhouse as the Assistant Food & Beverage Manager. Throughout college and the years that followed, Josh had continued taking Depakote to manage his seizure activity, but the medicine’s side effects really bothered him. The medication was effective for treating epilepsy but it slowed him down. Josh requested a different medicine, but his neurologist insisted that Depakote was the best for his type of seizures. He suffered several grand mal seizures during his time in West Palm Beach. During his last seizure, he fell in his bathroom and sustained a lethal blow to his head.
Josh passed away on June 18, 2008, less than two weeks before his 29th birthday. His parents are not unlike any other parents who have lost a child. The loss has been devastating to his mom and dad, Sandi and Bruce; and to Nicole, Josh’s sister. Not a day goes by without his family thinking about him, and often crying. When Josh was an infant, a clergyman was at the Chapnick home and, after meeting Josh while he was in his mother’s arms, said: “Your son is very special and you do not realize it”. Yes, Josh is special! He touched many people’s lives, showing them how it is just as easy to be kind and compassionate as it is to be difficult. His family remembered his kind generous heart when they chose his epitaph: “You open your hand, and provide for all the living”. The use of the word “provide” only seemed logical to make it part of the “JoshProvides name, brand and website.
There is no better way to perpetually memorialize and honor Josh’s character and being, than establishing the JoshProvides Epilepsy Assistance Foundation to support those living with seizure disorders by financially helping them with medical services, prescription medication costs and transportation costs.
His family and friends take solace in knowing they are doing what Josh would want them to do – opening their hands to provide for others. Please join us in supporting those who are living with epilepsy!