Gemma - Interview 20
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Gemma is 17 and in year 12 of Sixth Form. She had her first suspected seizure in a science class in year 7. After a few years, she started having blackouts where she would miss parts of the lesson. At first, the doctor thought Gemma had problems with her sugar levels and she went to see a diabetes specialist who in turn sent her onto a neurologist. By this time, Gemma's seizures were getting worse. Gemma had an EEG, was told she had epilepsy and was put on lamotrigine. This was four months before her interview. She has had both absence and tonic-clonic seizures which are both now controlled.
Gemma has had a few seizures in school. She says her friends were first upset about her diagnosis. She says now they appreciate that getting the diagnosis actually helped her to get the right medication and control her seizures. Her friends and family have been really supportive and she says that the people close to her have helped her most in the past few months.
Gemma has made adjustments to practical things in her everyday life. For example, she has a sign on the bathroom door when she's having a shower, she places pots and pans on the hob with the handles facing in and avoids clubs with flashing lights. She is also very careful not to get over-tired as it is her main trigger. Her consultant has been really good and Gemma can ask him anything without being embarrassed or feeling awkward. It's been important that the consultant has looked at her life as a whole and considers all the things she wants to do when choosing her medication, for example.
Gemma will finish school in a year's time and then plans to go onto university. Gemma was hoping to become a paramedic but because of epilepsy she decided to do nursing instead. She says she will not let epilepsy stand "in her way to do anything she wants" and by taking a little more care, she can live her life as everyone else. Gemma says she doesn't think epilepsy has changed her sense of self because' “no medical condition defines who you are, it is just something you happen to have”.
You can find Gemma's video diary by clicking here.
Gemma's video diary
Gemma's video diary
Gemma describes various safety precautions she takes at home.
I said about the saucepan handles they can't face out like most people want to cook with. We had a few issues here because I insist that the knives are blade down when they're draining, so you're meant to do that, what else' don't carry a pot of sort of pasta in its water that's just boiled across the kitchen, the plates come to the hot things rather than the hot things going onto the plate, it's just extra precautions and I think, at first I thought 'oh my goodness I'm never gonna be able to do that sort of thing' but it comes naturally now so.
Yeah. Do you cook on your own or use a hot iron or things like that?
Yeah [laughs], I've heard a couple of people say, 'Oh you should be cooking in the microwave.' And that sort of thing but, I don't know I just, I wanna do the same as what other people do I suppose. I iron and I cook on a hob and an oven and everything else maybe it's not the most sensible all the time but, I do it [laughs].
Gemma had a seizure in the common room in school. Pupils she didn't even know came up to her...
Gemma felt reassured by her doctor who told her of the many famous people with epilepsy and of...
Gemma describes what happens when she has an absence in the middle of conversation and how...
Just a few seconds which in itself isn't too bad but when you consider that most of the time it's sort of a sequence of a few you then, begin to lose sort of a minute of whatever's going on and then it's 'oh what are we doing?'. Yeah I found that quite upsetting. People used to say to me that I hadn't been listening to them and I was like, 'Well you didn't say it.' 'But you haven't been listening.' I said, 'No I was.' [Laughs], 'You didn't say it.' So I think it was really useful to just know that there was a reason for that.
Does it always click with you, that must mean that I've had a seizure?
Yeah I think it does because you're not always aware that you've had them until you know that you've missed something and if someone says, 'Oh I told you that a minute ago.' I'll go, 'Oh, are you sure you told me?', 'Yes.' And I just think 'oh possibly I had a seizure then'. But I think with those they're quite common, I think, from people say you grow out of them as you get older but I've grown into them so [laughs]. I think I'd just take those ones with a pinch of salt it just happens. You can't go back and do anything about it so just make sure everyone tells me everything at least three times so that at least I know I've heard it once [laughs].
Do you feel that you have had to work harder because of some lessons or some things have been more patchy?
It's been noticeable the last few weeks when I've been going sort of class work to revise and I thought 'we weren't taught that'. I've got this photocopied sheet and I thought 'we haven't done that'. But obviously we have it's in my folder. I think it's just taken a bit more input from me and I've had to work a bit harder in that respect just to catch up what I've missed kind of [laughs].