Text from: Jennifer Keller
Pictures from: Jeanne Gerster
For the Swiss Magazine: Femina
The little love… When I look at him, I feel an immeasurable love in me. At his birth, we did not think he would live past two years. Consequences of genetic and pathology of prenatal brain hemorrhage that caused severe damage in his brain. Soltan is blind, does not speak, can not move, and suffers from severe epilepsy.
Many think it is difficult to have a disabled child. At the risk of sounding shocking, I would say that it was a gift for me. Until then, I had led my life by the beat of my own drum. After a modest and happy childhood in Yvelines, near Paris, where I was introduced to painting by an artist, I started modeling at 16 years old in Milan. Journeys, encounters, different energies… I discovered the world.
When I was 18, I started full-contact boxing. It was a dream I had as a kid which I had to postpone until I was old enough. My mother considers this sport too violent for a little girl but I loved it! My love was so strong that, at 21 years old, I decided to stop working as a model following the ultimatum from my agent (who could not bear to see me arrive to any more photoshoots with black eyes). I dove in head-first while in France and soon, I won the title of champion. Twice.
From boxing to painting
A romantic encounter later, I settled in Switzerland, where I joined the ranks of professional female boxing. I had my first son in 2005, then my second. I opened my own therapy practice and met the one who became my husband… I was going to keep up the momentum when, due to a previous fracture in my jaw, I had to undergo surgery. It was just before the European boxing championship which was organized in Fribourg. My sports career ended because of this surgery.
It was a time of mourning, and my career felt so unfinished. I had been doing twelve hours of boxing a week, and all of a sudden I found myself deprived overnight. What was I gonna do what with all that energy? I decided to return to my first passion, painting, which I had left on stand-by. In the wake of my newly begun life, I became pregnant which brought great joy to my family.
In the fourth month of pregnancy, I was told my baby had a cerebral hemorrhage. Immediately I underwent amniocentesis, karyotypes. They took tiny brain MRIs in my stomach. The doctors were reassuring: if I had not miscarried by now, it was because the baby was strong and healthy.
The binaural sounds, you know?
On the day of delivery, Soltan was hospitalized at the facilities in Berne. He couldn’t get warm and had odd readings from his blood tests… Doctors discovered that his brain did not fully develop the pituitary gland, which is essential for synthesizing most hormones in the body. It has been a difficult time. It’s painful to see a child suffer. Then I had to take care of my two other sons and explain to them what was going on. I put my life aside for a little while.
Subject to violent epileptic seizures requiring Valium, Soltan slept almost all the time. I said to myself, “This is not possible, they will kill me. I have to find a solution other than medicine!” I have plunged back into the books and the latest neurological research. I was interested in binaural sound therapy. It is a question of simultaneously listening to a sound of a different frequency in each ear, in order to allow the brain to descend its frequency to 7 hertz – the theta wave, which is that of meditation – and exceeding 40 hertz during epileptic seizures. Even if the scientific community is divided on the benefits of this technique, I wanted to try. With the help of a musician friend, I developed the first musical chip which, in 2013, became the Boa Project.
The effects on Soltan were immediate. As soon as he had an epileptic seizure, I put the helmet on and started the music: within 45 seconds, his attacks stopped – and without Valium!
Little by little, mothers around me with children suffering from the same problem asked me to lend them the helmet. Through word of mouth, I was approached to perform tests by the Institution de Lavigny, a hospital that specialized in the treatment of epilepsy.
Painting acts on our brain waves
At the same time, I developed Boa Ocular Kinetics, another visual technique this time, through painting which can affect our brain waves. I have highly respected neurologists to verify my hypotheses by electroencephalogram: the association sound and color effectively multiplied the effects.
This is where I got the idea of developing a clothing line with prints of my paintings. Each eye affects the brain differently, so why not wear them directly on your body which could benefit others? Today, I’m here: I work on my clothing line and re-invest every penny into the Boa Project. It has since expanded to other fields, such as sports therapy.
The Fribourg Fashion Day, which takes place on February 18, 2017, aims to feature my research. There will be a parade with my new spring-summer collection, an exhibition of my paintings, and information about my research in neurology.
Looking back, I know that without my dual fracture to the jaw I would not have surrendered myself to painting. Without my son, Boa Project would not have been born. I was able to surpass myself and innovate in an area where I would probably never have gone.
I am convinced that every event, however tragic, makes sense. Not only does Soltan no longer need Valium to stop his seizures, but he has allowed other epileptics to get better, as well. He also brought us closer together, as a family. And… The family is going to grow. I’m pregnant. This is yet another new adventure that will start – or rather the sequel. We are so happy. Children are work, yes, but above all it is about love. We learn so much through them!
Learn more about Project Boa here: www.boaproject.com
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Next event: Fribourg Fashion Show, February 18th in Fribourg (Switzerland).