Brian Sullivan: Quetti laughs in the face of epilepsy
PITTSFIELD -- It was a balancing act that neither humored nor entertained Jackie Quetti. But the young woman ultimately stood up to the challenge and will now use humor to help raise funds and awareness for Epilepsy New England, the Boston-area foundation where the Pittsfield native is interning this summer after a successful first year at Elms College in Chicopee.
The fundraiser is Saturday at 8:30 p.m., in the form of a soft adult comedy evening organized by Quetti with New Hampshire native and former Pittsfield resident Bucky Lewis, the one-act headliner. The show will be held at the Itam Lodge on Waubeeka Road.
It’s a return to the area for Lewis, a Laconia, N.H., resident who appeared often in the Berkshires during the 1980s and ‘90s.
"I had my start locally doing standup comedy at Cranwell," said Lewis, who said that frundraisers like this one have provided him with a nice professional niche. "My job is to make sure everyone has a great time."
And he guarantees that.
Quetti, who has battled epilepsy since the age of 5, founded and hosted the Walk for Epilepsy fundraiser on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Cheshire the past five years. This particular show is a new direction for Quetti, who is the regional face and voice for the disease, and who continues to educate others in the fight toward its cure.
Did I say a successful first year at Elms? Well, it was. But not without a fight. The first semester was a grind, and no one felt worse about it than Quetti, who quite frankly spent much of the autumn ill and didn’t know why. For a time, neither did the doctors, both here at Berkshire Medical Center and in Springfield at Baystate Medical Center. Boston Chldren’s Hospital also took a whack at figuring it out, but they, too, were mystified at the onset of the severe dizzy spells she suffered.
"It was in September, right after she hosted the ‘Walk,’ " said Nancy Quetti, Jackie’s mother. "She had already run a pair of half-marathons earlier in the year. It had been a warm fall and we assumed at first it was just dehydration."
Jackie, a 2010 Pittsfield High graduate, and the rest of the family that includes her father, Russ, and triplet sisters, Rachel and Diana, were correctly concerned that something had gone terribly wrong with the epilepsy treatment.
Dizzy? How about she couldn’t sit up from a prone position without losing balance nor could she stand up from a sitting position without the same result. Vertigo and other medical theories were put forth and dismissed and the unknowing nature of the problem began to interfere with Jackie’s semester work while also clouding the mood of the family.
It wasn’t the best of times. After all, Jackie had come so far, and being able to live independently in Chicopee was a huge achievement.
Finally, a clear diagnosis emerged. It was a somewhat rare but very treatable balance disorder with no direct ties to the epilepsy. Jackie spent some time at home, but made up the school work and checked in with a stellar 3.9 GPA when all was said and done.
That huge sigh of relief you heard was the Quetti clan. Jackie, meanwhile, is living with a friend in Brookline this summer and taking the commuter train to work in Dorchester.
And if you are thinking that things have calmed down at the Quetti house, then think again. Diana and Rachel created their own bit of drama this spring, though no fault of their own.
Still, was it reasonable to assume that their college graduation days -- Diana from North Carolina State and Rachel from UMass-Amherst -- would each occur on different dates? I’ll tell ya, pal, it’s reasonable to assume, but not a chance of it happening. They were the same day and at the same time. So, there went Russ to see Diana at N.C. State, while Nancy and Jackie went to Amherst to see Rachel get her diploma.
Thanks to the miracle that is technology and all the gadgets that are available, Nancy was able to be in Amherst and still watch Diana give one of the graduation speeches in North Carolina. But hold on, it gets better. Right in the middle of Diana’s speech, it was Rachel’s turn to cross the stage and be handed her sheepskin.
There is, as they say, no rest for the weary. So, it’s a good thing Bucky Lewis is coming to town. The Quettis could use a laugh, and so could a lot of you. And it’s for a great cause.
Doors open at the Itam on Saturday at 7 p.m., and tickets will be $25 per individual. Tickets are available at Desperado’s on Eagle Street in North Adams, Teddy’s Pizza on East Street in Pittsfield and Kelly’s Package Store on Main Street in Dalton.
For more information on the show call (413) 822-7338 pr (413) 443-0987.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.
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