Andrea and Ralf Budweiser from Gschwend

Ralf loves Andrea. Andrea loves Ralf. They have been together since 1999 and they got married in 2007. Before that, they quickly built a house with a heated outdoor pool in Gschwend in Germany. It’s that simple, just normal. Two engaging people you immediately take to your heart. Both are fully employed, in the office and as a carpenter. And, from the very start, Ralf has always been a “bulldog driver” – that is what they call “tractor fans” in the southern German regions. Ralf is chairman of the local old-timer tractor club and a member of the fire department, a real lifesaver. But that’s not the only reason Andrea loves her Ralf..

How Ralf and Andrea became a couple
They got to know each other in 1999 at the Badseefest, at the “Brühzuberrennen”, a competition involving races in wooden tubs, which has been held every year since 1977 at the Badsee in Gschwend. Andrea (born in 1981) was there as a spectator, and Ralf and his friends ended as winners of one of the races. Ralf (born in 1976): “I managed to get hold of her phone number through a firefighter friend. I called at some point and took her out. We fell in love at the Christmas market in Stuttgart; that is when we made out for the first time.” And since then, they have been inseparable.

Ralf and Andrea have gone through thick and thin together, in the truest sense of the phrase. They always stand by each other, “no ifs or buts.”

Andreas epilepsy journey
Andrea has had epilepsy since birth and has had many seizures throughout her life, mainly at night. She still does not consciously experience most of the nocturnal seizures and Andrea would like to try out NightWatch to see whether it can support the couple by keeping track of all her nocturnal seizures and administering emergency medication on time if necessary.

Since Andrea started on a ketogenic diet three years ago, the severity of her seizures has gradually reduced. “I used to lash out with my arms and legs, but since I changed my diet, I no longer have clonic seizures, only cramps, and the seizures usually come at night around 1 am.” She has been disciplined in following the dietary guidelines and has been doing better overall since then. Surgery was ruled out in her case because the risk of affecting her speech or motor centres in the brain would be too high. “When I have a seizure, I sometimes have an aura beforehand and can then suppress it with 0.5 mg of Tavor; my emergency ration is always ready on the bedside table.”

When Andrea was younger, the medication led to uncontrolled weight gain, and it took various medication changes to help her get back to a normal weight. “I used to weigh 120 kilos; it wasn’t until I switched medications that the kilos came off, and I’ve also had tummy tuck surgeries a few times.” Ralf helped to take care of the wound. “The doctor asked if I could stand the sight of blood.” It was no problem for him as a firefighter. Andrea: “He had to dress my buttocks for three months because the wounds wouldn’t heal.” When Ralf got cancer, she was there for him. And also, when Ralf had various other illnesses, the two hold each other up so that everything turned out alright in the end.

I met Ralf and Andrea at a seminar of the Epilepsy Association of Baden-Württemberg. Shortly before that she had had an extended EEG at the University Hospital in Tübingen, and during the process she developed an inflammation in the brain with an abscess. Andrea spent the following rehab at Lake Constance in Konstanz. Ralf visited her regularly with his own camper “I had a place at the campsite in Constance right beside the water, which was nice.” And that is also one of the couple’s other hobbies: trips with caravans, enjoying the Lake Constance area, touring by bike, and enjoying nature without stress.

Andreas and Ralf’s tip for people with epilepsy
Deal with the disease openly and confidently, don’t let it be your main focus in life, don’t let the disease control you.

Andrea has always been open about her epilepsy, including towards Ralf, from the very beginning. Ralf had not known about epilepsy before, and he loves his Andrea just the way she is. When she had a prolonged severe seizure at night, he called an ambulance. “Epilepsy is just everyday life; problems only come at night and if I wake up with a black eye, sometimes she gets one back.” They both laugh heartily about this.

A NightWatch story by Birgit-Elisabeth Langen, February 2022