The incredible life of a rock ‘n’ roller
By Robin Morales
Nate Bennett is a computer-support LCC student, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and former university dining hall manager defined by the sort of personal resilience found in the most valiant of characters.
The 47-year-old Bennett was born in East Lansing and diagnosed with epilepsy at 26. His condition has infiltrated and affected all areas of his life. The most significant impediments are perhaps his fragmented memory and his struggles with employment due to the potential dangers he poses to himself and others during a seizure.
“There’s nothing like being told you can’t work,” he said.
Bennett moved to Santa Cruz, Calif., in 1995 to write and record hippie-rock albums. One of his bands, “Nate’s Action Playset,” was featured on a cable TV program in 2009.
While Bennett has been involved with music for many years, his seizures have affected his ability to remember and perform his own music.
In 2013, Bennett agreed to participate in a study conducted by neurology students and doctors at Stanford University. The study was intended to test a new FDA-approved device which could alleviate seizure episodes in epilepsy patients.
“I agreed to be studied because I want to help others (with epilepsy),” he said.
Through the 21 days in which researchers induced seizures to study regions of Nate’s brain, he was strapped to a bed and often entangled in countless wires attached to his skull.
“I was doing stuff like stacking up blocks while they looked at my brain,” Bennett said. “They brought a dog into the room to see how it would affect my brain.”
While the device was deemed unfit for Bennett, the forcefulness of his seizures has generally lessened and decreased in frequency over time. This trend is in direct contrast to what doctors told Bennett after the study.
“My seizures are apparently such a rare and dangerous type that basically every time I make it through a grand-mal (a severe seizure) they’re (doctors) surprised I’m still functioning.”
Bennett became an LCC student in 2017 and recently purchased a house in Lansing with his wife, Amy. The two met in Santa Cruz at the dining hall where they both worked. They have been married for five years.
“We both played in music bands together,” Amy said. “We were kindred spirits.”
Bennett said he hopes to finish his computer degree and work in a computer-support position in the near future.
Furthermore, to help him remember and perform his music, he has created a device nicknamed, “The CrutchBot.” This easily transportable device displays his lyrics for him on a small screen and plays back his recorded instrumentation so he can focus on singing.
“I’m hoping, as a personal goal, to play with this machine (on campus) and send them (doctors and former friends) some footage of me and go, ‘Not only did I not die, I returned to school, I got a computer degree, I built this device so that I can play music.’
“There’s still a good purpose for me here on this planet. And I may even still be able to help other people with epilepsy.”