Tennessee woman with epilepsy dies after government benefits stop

(WATE)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A mother is mourning the loss of her daughter.

Amy Schnelle, 31, died of an epileptic seizure on February 17. She died less than half a year after the government cut her benefits, including medication.

To her friends and family, Amy Schnelle, a former factory worker, was kind, fun loving and vivacious. She battled with epilepsy most of her life.

On disability for several years, Amy Schnelle was receiving powerful anti-seizure drugs and had been seizure free since 2015. Then the United States Social Security Administration threw her a curve ball in September 2016 when they informed her she was no longer sick.

“I couldn’t imagine what would happen if I’m off of my medicine for a week,” Amy Schnelle said in September 2016. “I could roll into seizures.”

She appealed the decision, but while her appeal was under consideration, Amy Schnelle’s benefits stopped. Nevertheless, three of the drug manufacturers provided her with sample drugs, but one did not. Sylvia Schnelle, Amy Schnelle’s mother, said without the full supply of prescription pills, her daughter relapsed in late October.

“She had a whole lot of seizures because one of the medicines didn’t come through,” said Sylvia Schnelle. “Once you stop your medicine so abruptly you go into a tailspin of seizures and you don’t come out of it.”

Writing to Congressman Jimmy Duncan, Amy Schnelle was able to convince the government to resume her benefits. That happened in January 2017, but in February 2017, from her apartment, she texted her mother she had a “bad” seizure and asked her to “please” come. Her mother rushed to Knoxville from her home in Dandridge.

“Amy was on her stomach and she had already died. She died from a seizure,” said Sylvia Schnelle through tears.

What Amy wrote to her father when he was dying a few years ago is poignant:

In happy moments praise God,
In difficult times seek God,
In quite moments worship God,
In painful moments trust God,
Every moment thank God

Sylvia Schnelle said her daughter, who was deeply religious, is in a better place, but she wishes someone at social security had listened. She feels Amy Schnelle’s death wasn’t necessary.

“I don’t think my Amy would have died if there wasn’t a cut in her medicine,” said Amy Schnelle.

Before she died, Social Security told WKRN sister station WATE 6 On Your Side in September that there was “no indication” that the dizziness Amy Schnelle experienced “seriously affected her activities.” Sylvia Schnelle said despite her daughter’s medication being renewed at the beginning of 2017, the episode Amy Schnelle had in October 2016 seriously affected her health and she never fully recovered.

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