Alistair - Interview 14
More about me...
Alistair is 18 and works full-time as a health care assistant. At 15 he started having blackouts and his GP referred him to a neurologist who diagnosed temporal lobe epilepsy at the age of 16. He's had both tonic clonic and absence seizures.
Epilepsy affected him in school and he even had a seizure during his mock GCSE exam. Also, aggression was a side effect from his medication which caused problems in school; some people would wind him up about his epilepsy. School offered him help to manage his anger and frustrations which really helped Alistair. The next medication caused him to lose weight very rapidly so he was taken off that. Now he is on lamotrogine 200 mg twice a day and at the moment seizures are well controlled.
Alistair wanted to join the RAF, armed forces or the ambulance service but had to give up these plans because of his epilepsy. At first, it got to him but then he realised he could still do similar things, and achieve his goals, by being a paramedic or a nurse. He joined St John Ambulance charity as a volunteer, and is also in the scouts which he enjoys. Alistair used to play rugby for a local club but after being diagnosed, and having a few knocks on his head which triggered a seizure, he decided to stop playing.
He's had a few seizures in public places when on his own and now always wears medical tags with his personal and medical details. He emphasises how useful these are for people with epilepsy. For example, he once had a seizure when ice-skating on his own and his parents could be contacted through the contact details on his tags.
The year before the interview Alistair had gone 50 weeks without a seizure. He was just coming up to getting his driving licence but just 2 weeks before he had a seizure. At the time of the interview, Alistair had gone another 50 weeks without a seizure and was counting the days! Alistair he says he takes things day by day' “a step at a time and try not get too stressed out”.
Alistair felt aggressive and had a 'short fuse' when he started his medication. He went to anger...
Yeah. Can you tell me more about the aggression that you experienced with Tegretol, what was that like?
Yeah, the school was getting worried because me temper was getting very bad. But after sitting down, and letters being wrote to the school by the GP, saying that after new research the side-effects for the medication can be aggression. At school it did bother me, because people found out that I were epileptic and they were winding me up when I wasn't able to like let it go past me. And it did cause a few troubles. But school were aware of that and the appropriate people were informed in case anything did happen. Otherwise I'm on new set of medication, on lamotrogine it doesn't bother me.
So would you sort of get into fights with people or be easily irritable?
A few times if anyone had touched me or anything it would wind me up very easily, or at school called it a short fuse. That's what they said I had. But no, times have gone on and I've got over that. It's a matter of being mature as well. But school thought 'oh he could be bit immature', but then after realising it was medication problem then that's what they put it down to.
Yes. And how was the school in supporting you with having epilepsy?
They set up an anger management class. I had to do anger management with a special teacher what was able to sit down for an hour or two every week. We used to sit down and talk about things. We did a diary of what I was eating on a daily basis. The school thought it could be something that I'm eating at school. Or see what lessons, see if there was chain line. If it was certain lessons that were causing seizures, stress at school that was another big thing. If I were going through quite a bit of stress with teachers and lessons and subjects, I was worried about me exams but I was all right. But going to anger management through school was pretty helpful. And if I require that now I've been told I can contact the epilepsy nurse, she can organise classes for me whenever.
Alistair had wanted to join the armed forces or the ambulance service but had to give that up...
How do you feel about that?
It did upset me a little bit. Because I thought I want to work in the Army, follow me uncle's steps but like I say I got over it. I looked into it more and I thought I could do this job instead. Instead of going into Army to be a nurse or to be a paramedic I can do it in the local hospital. So that has been okay. But sometimes when I do look back I think oh I could be doing this job if I didn't have epilepsy, so but otherwise now I've got over it. I've got more targets to do.
And maybe something kind of in a similar area you can do.
Yeah, same job. You might see more people working in hospital than working in Army. You might be meeting different people each day.
Alistair takes it slow with alcohol and sometimes just has soft drinks on a night out with mates.
So you can go to the pub?
I just tend to, you know, take it slow. There's no need. Sometimes I can go out and not have a drink. I don't think you need to have a drink to go out, you can just enjoy yourself as much. People just think that it's something that comes to mind, having a drink, but with me it don't really bother me, I could go out and have a glass of coke at night and still enjoy the night. And social life otherwise has been okay.
Do you find ever difficult not to have a drink, do you feel like there is a bit of pressure?
I think there is a bit of pressure when you go out with your friends and they are stood around you and you can smell alcohol and you think oh I wish I could have one. So a few times I've had one but when they've started to have a few many, that's when I look at it and think should I or shouldn't I and I've actually stopped myself sometimes from having a drink. So it's down to the individual. Do they want to have one more drink and affect them. Touch wood I've always thought on bright side and not had an extra drink.
Alistair has been counting the weeks before he can drive again. The previous year, he was seizure...
Alistair has always made it clear in job applications that he has epilepsy. He says it's...
Alistair said his diagnosis was 'a shock to the system' but processing it over time with family...
Do you remember more about those feelings at that time when you got diagnosed. You said it was a shock to the system?
Yes. When I was first found out. I didn't know what to do. I thought if I go out with me friends, what happens if I've one. So I thought straight away what do I do. So I told friends. Friends were informed straight away. I sat down and had a talk with them, the same with school. They were informed straight away. And it were, like I say it was shock to my system, but over a period of time it did come out of my mind. Some days I would forget that I had got epilepsy and then some days, like now, time is getting on because of being able to drive and I sit there thinking sometimes in work just thinking what happens, just making sure that me tablets are taken on time.
Alistair's teachers were helpful and knew what to do if he had a seizure at school. They also...
You said you experienced some seizures in class? What would happen?
When I was at school mainly the main seizures I were having were just normal blackouts. I tend to be in a world of my own. The teacher would notice this straight away as they would say that I was a main student in class. The teacher always noticed that I were doing good work. So they would notice it if I was going downhill. So the teacher did actually realise that I was having seizures. I was always sat with friends during class. And none of my blackouts were falling onto table, falling forward. Luckily I wasn't have seizures where jerking of the body was happening. That was lucky. In some subjects I were told just to take it easy. Like science. If I'm holding chemicals in me hand, you know, just to be careful. So I had a member of staff with me most times in science and lessons like that.
Alistair got a lot of information from epilepsy charities' websites and explains why he prefers...
Do you feel now that you have enough information about epilepsy?
I don't think you'll ever have enough information. I think you can get more than one information weekly, daily, stuff like that. So every so often I tend to go on websites and read me books more. See if I find out any different. Information does get passed on to friends and so they find out what epilepsy is as well.