Alan Davies, or ‘G-Pa’, has been recognised with an Epilepsy Star award for the incredible support, care and encouragement he’s given his granddaughter, Georgia, who has epilepsy.
Alan has been an unwavering source of support for Georgia in every step of her epilepsy journey, both practically and emotionally. ‘G-Pa’ was by Georgia’s side at every neurology appointment and was always there to share the emotional burden of dealing with the condition, day in and day out. He also encouraged her to pursue medical research in the epilepsy field after her degree. Georgia, who nominated him, shares their story.
“I was 18 when I had my first seizure. I was living six hours away from home, studying Marine Biology at university. After I had my second seizure, I made the difficult decision to move back home. For the next year, I felt hopeless. I had to give up everything I worked hard for. I stopped scuba training, I stopped going out, my mental health was worse than it had ever been. I watched all my friends achieve so much while I felt stagnant.
“Thankfully, I had so much support from my family, and after a year I was able to go back to university closer to home, where I began studying Biochemistry. During my second year back at uni, though, my epilepsy got so out of control that I wasn’t allowed in the lab. I had so many public seizures, so many ambulance rides and hospital stays.
“My 8-year-old brother had to watch his sister’s health decline. During this time however, my neurologist at the time decided my seizures were due to poor mental health and took me off my medication.
“Things got worse than I could have imagined. Intubation, being unable to recognise my family, having over 70 seizures in just three months. After a while, another neurologist put me back on medication and referred me to an epileptologist, who is amazing. I managed to go six months seizure-free, go on holiday and swim in the sea. I’ve had six seizures in the past year, which is a huge improvement, and I’m hoping that the medication increase I’ve had recently will help with any breakthrough seizures.”
The process was of course very challenging for Georgia, but ‘G-Pa’ was there to support her every step of the way, providing an immense amount of encouragement and care in all aspects of her life.
“The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome because of my condition was dealing with the mental health fallout, the feelings of worthlessness and comparing myself to others. I’ve been to therapy to help me deal with this. My family has been a huge source of support during this time, and I’ve learnt that just because everyone else is achieving things, it doesn’t mean your own achievements aren’t something to be celebrated.
“Another huge challenge for me was continuing my studies. When things took a turn for the worse during my second year in Biochemistry, I was devastated. I thought I wouldn’t be able to complete my degree, but my lecturers were very understanding and made accommodations for me.
“Of all the people in my life, my grandfather has supported me the most. He drove me to and from university every day when I was unable to take public transport. He’s been with me to all my neurology and epileptologist appointments, with video evidence to show them, which is important in getting an epilepsy diagnosis.
“I fell down the stairs during a seizure once and he was there within 3 minutes. G-Pa took me to hospital and told the nurses how urgent it was, he sat with me and held my hand when they put me on oxygen.”
“I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words the impact he has had on my life, but I’ll try my best. He has always engaged in current research, reading articles I send him and finding his own to better understand my condition. When I need somewhere to go, his door is always open. On the days I would be alone at the house, he’d drive to pick me up so I’d have the security of being with someone. He always has snacks and vegan ice cream too!”
In her third year of university, Georgia decided she wanted to pursue medical research in the epilepsy field, after her Biochemistry degree.
“My grandad inspired me to do research into epilepsy. I don’t want anyone to go through the pain of watching a family member with epilepsy, and while I know that’s not possible, I hope to ease some of the burden. He has never stopped believing in me and shows it every day through little gestures, he’d never admit to how much he worries but I know and appreciate it all the same.
“My mother says: ‘The way he looks after Georgia gives me added security of knowing someone loves and looks after her like I do’. I want to thank him for all the help and support he has provided, his kindness, compassion and care has made all the difference in my life. His efforts to connect me with medical professionals and resources when I had given up has been invaluable.
He has been an advocate for me when I needed it most, his unwavering support has brought me confidence and comfort during this time. I can’t thank him enough for the positive impact he has made in my life, I will always remember that he gave me strength and helped me navigate appointments and life in general. Thank you for being an ally, friend and amazing grandfather, I couldn’t have made it through this without you. I love you.”
Accepting his Epilepsy Star award, Alan said: “I’m absolutely speechless – my granddaughter is worth all the hassle. I know my help, support and understanding is appreciated and I thank Epilepsy Action for their recognition.”