Stories of People Living with Epilepsy
For those of you who have not read this we are reposting this moving speech.
Alissa Bowbanks - Epilepsy at 24
When I was a child I would occasionally see my mother write epilepsy under health information for school enrolments and so forth. I remember questioning this at one point, probably when I was about 11 years of age. She informed me that when I was six months old the doctors had found a scar on my brain after my mother noticed I was having the shakes in one of my arms.
The doctors at the time really couldn't tell her much, just saying that there was a possibility that I might develop epilepsy as I got a bit older.
22 years passed with nothing. It was rarely discussed or even considered, until October 2008 when I woke up in the morning and went through to the bathroom to have a shower and get ready for work. The next thing I remember is waking up in bed with a towel wrapped around my head as I normally would do to dry my hair.
I remember feeling drowsy and having a headache, so when I pulled the towel away from my hair I was surprised to find blood all over the towel and dried up in my hair. The shower curtain and rail were on the floor covered in blood, and there were drops of blood in our loungeroom also.
The doctors told me I fainted, and there was nothing to worry about. They gave me a pregnancy test which came back negative, and as I had two children already I was doubtful that pregnancy was the cause. Yet, two weeks later I found out I was in fact pregnant.
I had a hassle free pregnancy although I ended up having an emergency c-section which was a shock after two natural deliveries. Four weeks after having my daughter, I was picking my sons up from their child care centre. I got into the driver's seat and picked up my car keys. That is the last thing I remember. Apparently one of the other mothers found me, and a staff member called an ambulance.
I was semi conscious. I presume as I was reacting to my children's cries. This time, I was foaming at the mouth and breathing very shallowly. Again, the doctors told me I had fainted. I was recovering from a c-section, they said, and sent me home.
It wasn't until January 2010 that I finally got my diagnosis. While in the middle of a job interview, the room spinning began spinning. The next thing I remembered was waking up to two ambulance officers standing in front of me. Fortunately for me, I had witnesses this time and both of them confirmed I was fitting. As you can probably imagine, I didn't get the job.
I was diagnosed with epilepsy and started on medication February 2010. I have had another three seizures since my diagnosis, one in March, June and July 2010. I am now on Epilem and Keppra, and it seems to be working. I have been seizure-free for over a year.
The doctor's are still puzzled as to why I went so long with no seizures before epilepsy suddenly reared its head up, but I am just glad that I can make informed decisions and inform those around me. Epilepsy is very misunderstood and a lot of people are scared of the idea of it.
I share my story because hearing the stories of other epileptics and how they have dealt with it has been such an encouragement to me.
Water polo champ Luke Quinlivan talks about epilepsy brush with death
GOOD MATES: Australian water polo player, Luke Quinlivan, (centre) who sank to the bottom of the Challenge Stadium pool when he had an epilepsy seizure, with mates Luke O'Halloran and Mitchal Ainsworth, who came to his aid. Picture: Theo Fakos Source: PerthNow
AS water polo champion Luke Quinlivan sank to the bottom of the Challenge Stadium diving pool last November, his teammates watched in amusement, thinking he was mucking around.
His buddies at the early morning training session had no reason to think anything was wrong with the fighting-fit 25-year-old goalkeeper for the national men's team.
But Quinlivan was in the stranglehold of an epileptic seizure, unconscious and seconds away from drowning.
It wasn't until his cousin Nick O'Halloran and best mate Mitchal Ainsworth saw him at the bottom of the 5m pool in a strange "stretching" pose that alarm set in.
The pair quickly swam down to Quinlivan, who had been under water for about 60 seconds, and heaved their 100kg teammate out of the pool.
Quinlivan, the estranged son of former Olympic swimming champion Neil Brooks, described the experience as "scary".
"When I woke up there were people looking over me and a pool attendant pushing an oxygen mask on to my face and people pushing me to sit down," Quinlivan said.
"I didn't know where I was or what was going on, so my natural reaction was to try to fight people off. It felt like I was being attacked."
He was taken to hospital for observation and made a full recovery.
Quinlivan blames the seizure on missing his usual morning dose of medication for epilepsy.
Now he wants to raise awareness and dispel some of the myths and stigma surrounding the condition.
Quinlivan was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2001 at the age of 15.
"I know on a conscious level that I have epilepsy and asthma and no hearing in my left ear, and that I'm short-sighted, but on a subconscious level I don't accept that I have (any problems) and I just get on with it," Quinlivan said.
"That's a good thing in the sense that I've never been afraid . . . but it's also been my downfall because there are moments when I have been lax and forgotten to take my medication.
"This last seizure (in November last year) was a harsh reminder that I can't be complacent."
After a successful elbow operation this week, Quinlivan is hoping to get back into serious training soon for next year's London Olympics Games.
He hopes his story will encourage others with epilepsy to always take appropriate medication and also show people with a treatable form of the condition that they don't have to give up their dreams.
Epilepsy Association of WA executive officer Suresh Rajan said many people who had epilepsy, or who had children with the condition, were embarrassed to speak about it, even to family and friends.
Yet epilepsy was more common than most people thought, with at least 20,000 people affected by the condition in WA.
Mr Rajan encouraged employers to have staff trained to help a person having a seizure.
Quinlivan is calling on people to take part in Purple Day on March 26 by buying a purple ribbon or donating to EAWA. For more information go to epilepsywa.org.au.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT EPILEPSY
Epilepsy is a disorder of brain function that results in recurring seizures.
One in 20 children will have a seizure during childhood and adolescence.
Epilepsy is increasingly common after the age of 50 years.
There are at least 20,000 people with active epilepsy in WA
A further 1,400 new patients present with a seizure each year.
Some seizures are hardly noticeable and other types render the person unconscious.
HOW TO TREAT A PERSON HAVING A SEIZURE:
Remain with the person and stay calm
Note the length of seizure
Protect them from injury by removing hard objects from surrounding area
Gently roll person on side after the seizure
Communicate with them to confirm they have regained consciousness
Reassure the person
Keep onlookers away
Restrain the person's movements
Force anything into their mouth
Give them water, pills or food until they are fully alert
RING AN AMBULANCE IF:
Seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
Person is not conscious after 5 minutes
Seizure occurs in water
Person is injured
Person is pregnant or has diabetes
It is their first seizure
You are in doubt
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