Epilepsy Action is proud to welcome two new ambassadors for the charity, record breaking sportswomen Beth Dobbin, 200 metre running champion and Imogen Clark 50 metre champion swimmer.
Beth and Imogen are two young athletes with promising futures in their sports. They also have something else in common, they both have epilepsy.
Imogen was diagnosed with photosensitive epilepsy at the age of 14, and was initially advised that she would not be able to continue swimming. Despite the advice of her doctors, and the wishes of her mother, Imogen kept swimming. Four years after her diagnosis, Imogen has a won a silver medal in the European Championships. The new record time she set sees her ranked fourth in the world, and as the ninth fastest performer ever in the event.
Even this achievement was not without its own barriers though. When Imogen won her medal, she realised the award ceremony would mean the arena would be pitch black, have twirling lights, and 25 photographers with flashing cameras. This would have been a huge problem for Imogen’s photosensitive epilepsy.
Imogen, her team manager and team doctor spoke with the event managers so this could quickly be changed before she walked out for the medal ceremony. Fortunately, everyone was very cooperative to Imogen’s request for support. The arena helped by turning the lights on, which meant photographers didn’t need to use flash photography.
Imogen’s first act as an ambassador for Epilepsy Action has been to sketch a doodle for National Doodle Day. Imogen is a keen artist, and enjoys painting between swims. Recently, Imogen visited the Epilepsy Action office in Yeadon to discuss how she could help other people with epilepsy. When we talked to her about Doodle Day, she was immediately on-board and created a doodle.
Like Imogen, Beth was also diagnosed in her teenage years. At 13 years old, Beth experienced a seizure so severe she lost all movement on the left side of her body and was unable to talk, walk or recognise her family. Beth was diagnosed with epilepsy and given medication which controlled her seizures.
Beth remembers that she struggled to talk to anyone about epilepsy and felt that she did not understand her condition. This and the constant worry of having another seizure, led to Beth experiencing anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She also developed phobias of things she believed could trigger her seizures.
As her first seizure left Beth unable to walk she had to take a lot of time off athletics before returning slowly to running. In these early stages, her initial performances weren’t very good. After a couple of months of coming off her medication, her performances improved. She went from not being able to make teams at the English Schools Champs to winning a silver medal.
Having accepted her condition and refocused on athletics, Beth has this year beaten a 34-year Scottish record and been crowned British champion.
Both Beth and Imogen have overcome huge barriers and are well on track/ target to achieve success in their sporting careers. We look forward to working with them both to raise awareness of epilepsy, and work for a better life for everyone affected by epilepsy.