A Waco area 21-year-old is going on vacation out of state for the first time in his life.
Dakota Dillon and his parents are heading to Nashville, Tennessee, for their first family vacation. Dakota hasn't been able to take a trip like that before because of health reasons.
Dakota was diagnosed with epilepsy as a kid after he experienced a 90-minute grand mal seizure at the age of two.
"That first night was making sure he was going to make it," Theresa Dillon, Dakota's mother, said.
Theresa said it started like any other day on July 29, 1998.
“We went to work that day. We were watching TV. He fell asleep with us. We put him in the bed. We checked on him before we went to bed and your lives change,” Theresa said.
They rushed him to the hospital where he was put in the Intensive Care Unit and was on life support for a few days.
“I've spent many, many hours and sleepless nights going back and reliving that night. What did we do that day? What did we do that was different?" Matt Dillon, Dakota’s dad, said.
Dakota continued to have seizures in the years to come, averaging 10-20 a week. His parents said they never knew when he would have one, but they often occurred at night.
The family traveled to doctors across the state of Texas hoping to find a way to manage the seizures. One doctor told them Dakota would not be able to talk or walk.
But a doctor in Houston finally found a way to manage it after conducting a week-long test that looked at Dakota’s brain.
“He was able to tell us what parts of the brain were affected which was the part that affected your speech, your balance and your behaviors,” Theresa said.
Dakota was prescribed medications to help with the seizures. The prescriptions have changed over the years, but what he is taking now seems to be working.
“June 30th of this year marked 11 years we've been seizure free,” Theresa said. “We didn't give up. It's been a hard road, but we are walking and we're talking."
The road has been rough for the Dillon’s. They spent years going back and forth to hospitals and had to make tough decisions.
“We’ve had to make decisions that no parents should have to make. Some of them were very tough decisions but we knew in the long term they would benefit Dakota,” Theresa said. “Looking back, the decisions, although as tough as they were, we had many obstacles to climb. They were decisions that now as he’s grown older have benefited him.”
Dakota is not allowed to drive right now, per doctor’s orders, but once he hits the 15-year seizure free mark, doctors will clear him. Driving is one of the things Dakota is counting down the days to do.
“We have good days, bad days and our good days out number our bad days,” Theresa said. “And I used to say he was our puzzle. and the first thing you do with a puzzle is the border. and once they were able to get the seizures under control that was the border for us to start forward. To see how far he has come, it’s just amazing.”
Dakota is a high school graduate, has two jobs and is the manager for the Midway ISD football team.
As for the future, Dakota said he just wants to help people.
"[I want to] volunteer somewhere and help people who need help with something. I go help them,” Dakota said.
On Saturday, the family will take a road trip to Nashville, Tennessee, to go to the Grand Ole Opry and visit other museum and tourist destinations along the way.
“He loves country music,” Theresa and Matt said.
For the first time in 19 years, doctors told Theresa and Matt they had no hesitations about allowing Dakota go on the road trip.
"We didn't give up. It's been a hard road, but we are walking and we're talking, you know,” Theresa said.
Dakota has a countdown on his phone anticipating the trip.
“[I’m] going somewhere for the first time ever to my dream place that does country music that I love,” Dakota said.
While on his vacation, the Dillon family visited the wax museum, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline museum, and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
A former contestant of The Voice Holly Tucker happened to be in Nashville, and the family got a chance to meet up with her.
They visited the Grand Ole Opry on Aug. 9 and had the opportunity to meet country music artist Easton Corbin. Dakota said it was the best night of his life.
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