They often say dogs are a man's best friend. And there was no finer example of this than the bond between Rob and his faithful dog Django on the set of Epilepsy Action's Purple Day video. Rob, a veterinary surgeon, is no stranger to working all hours to help families and their pets in times of need. But he was on a call-out of a different kind when he turned up to work one rainy Saturday in February, with Django in tow. We were filming the Purple Day pair to highlight what a difference the Epilepsy Action Helpline made for Rob when he was first diagnosed with epilepsy.
After filming some shots of Django expertly playing fetch in a nearby park, we head back to the surgery where Rob tells his story about how his life changed after being diagnosed with epilepsy. October 2013 is a month Rob will never forget. He was on his way to Nando's with some friends and his sister when he had his first seizure behind the wheel. One minute he was driving – the next his life had turned upside down. He was later diagnosed with epilepsy and said he suddenly had a lot to come to terms with. But after picking up the phone to the Epilepsy Action Helpline, he said he got the answers he needed to help him move forward with his life and be a successful vet.
"I was at a low point. I felt isolated and completely lost with regards to where to go. The helpline was my best friend in the first year after my diagnosis. It kept me sane and on the right path. It's a phenomenal service. Whether they give you advice or just listen to you moan. Having someone who you can relate to is brilliant. It's helped me to come to terms with what I am dealing with. It's not a taboo subject any more – both for other people and myself."
Rob's dad William and sister Ellie also join us on the shoot and are clearly protective of Rob, having been there on the day of the crash and seeing how he was affected. William told us: "I think the helpline gave him what we probably couldn't – in the sense that it was always available to him. He could probably say things to a stranger on the line that he wouldn't necessarily say to his parents. And I think there is an advantage there in that you can, surprisingly, say something quite direct and honest to a stranger that you probably wouldn't say to your nearest and dearest."
As the shoot nears the end and we film the closing scenes, Rob reflects on how it was to share his story for Purple Day. "Well, it certainly made for an interesting if different Saturday! Filming was a little daunting at first, but once I'd learned to ignore the camera, it was quite fun – if a little chilly. Django was a natural under the spotlights and shows the advice about working with animals isn't always true!
"If I can help just one person by sharing my story, then it will have been worth it. Epilepsy is scary and rarely talked about, despite how common it is. Knowledge of the condition needs to be more in the public eye. I want to help show that epilepsy doesn't have to be debilitating. I also want to help people who are still coming to terms with the condition. It can be daunting to start with, but I want to let people know that there is light at the end of the tunnel!"