New London woman pushes for epilepsy awareness, governor signs Sam’s Law in honor of Kilgore teen
A project that began more than two years ago has now come full circle.
Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 684, Sam’s Law, which was authored by District 11 State Rep. Travis Clardy. HB 684 honors the memory of a Kilgore High School student who died in December 2016.
Samantha Watkins, a senior honors student at Kilgore High School and a member of the varsity soccer team, was awaiting a diagnosis from doctors when she experienced a massive seizure that left her on life support.
Sam’s Law will ensure Texas’ school district employees receive training and education about seizure recognition and first aid.
“Sam's Law started off as a conversation between myself and constituent Shari Dudo last summer at a town hall meeting, and now we are in the Governor's office for a signing ceremony,” Rep. Clardy said. “This bill would not have passed, if not for the determination of Mrs. Dudo, the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas, and so many others. I am grateful to have worked with Senator Bryan Hughes and my colleagues to ensure our public schools are seizure smart."
Dudo, a retired school teacher from New London, has epilepsy and in the last two years raising awareness has been her work. After working with Rep. Clardy for more than a year, Dudo was sent to Austin where she met with Clardy’s Chief of Staff, Kelly Barnes.
Dudo founded the Purple Warriors of Texas and has been advocating for Sam and others with epilepsy.
Clardy and Barnes agreed to draft a bill for Dudo’s efforts and in January the bill was filed in front of the legislature.
“Both of these men [Clardy and Hughes] are putting the well being of 49,050 Texas children that have epilepsy first,” Dudo said earlier this year. “For that, we are so grateful.”
With Sam’s Law, school nurses would complete a Texas Education Agency-approved training on treating students suffering from seizures. The Epilepsy Foundation of Texas is providing educational training videos, at no cost, to the Texas Education Agency for approval and use.
HB 684 calls for the implementation of a seizure action plan that would ensure public school nurses and other school employees are prepared to support students who have a history of epileptic seizures and to provide aid to students who experience seizures at school.
"I am proud and optimistic we can channel the loss of Sam to set in place a system that will reach beyond Texas,” said Rep. Clardy. “Efforts are underway to use Sam’s Law as a blueprint to improve seizure awareness and response nationally. Sam’s memory and legacy will save lives here in Texas and in other states far into the future."
For more information about Sam’s Law, visit www.samslaw.org.