Purple Day falls on Mother’s Day this year, so it will be a particularly poignant day for Epilepsy Action ambassador and former S Club Junior Stacey McClean. Here she explains why.
I always considered myself very lucky to have a healthy family. So it came as quite a shock to us all when my mum, Leanne, had a seizure for the very first time back in 2014. It came out of the blue – we had no warning or history of the condition in the family. I remember receiving a phone call and thought it was my mum but when I answered, it was my dad. He told me she’d had a seizure at work and had gone to hospital. I told myself she’d been over-exerting herself at work and that this was a one-off.
But a month later, I got another phone call from my dad. It’s very rare he calls me – we normally text – so I instantly knew something was wrong. My mum had had another seizure, while driving my brother Liam and his friend to school. She started jolting her head and when he looked at her she was foaming and bleeding from her mouth. Luckily she was not driving at high speed but Liam had to take control to bring it to a stop – thankfully only tapping the car in front. I will be forever thankful to him that day for potentially saving her life. I dread to think what could have happened if she’d been driving alone that morning.
My mum is a strong, independent person and for her to not know when a seizure is going to strike has been the hardest part.
Having shared this journey with her and seeing everything she has been through, regardless of her seizures has inspired me to help others out there living with epilepsy, as well as change the perceptions and stigma attached to the condition.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw my mum have a seizure while shopping in the Boxing Day sales in her home-town of Blackpool. Even after being told what to do if a person has a seizure, everything that my mum told me just completely left my head. Everyone was crowding round. Some people were trying to help but others were just hovering around, which made the situation worse. There was someone from St John Ambulance walking past us when it happened, so he was really helpful. But seeing someone you love, especially your mum, being in that state, was just awful. It still upsets me when I think about it.
My mum’s epilepsy has opened up a whole new world I never knew existed. I find it quite shocking that 87 people are diagnosed every single day, and yet there is still so much misunderstanding about epilepsy. It’s an invisible condition which affects people’s lives in so many ways, from their home and work life to everyday social situations. I want to help people understand that epilepsy is nothing to be ashamed about, it’s a way of life that is just a bit different. If I can help other people understand more about epilepsy so people with the condition can live the life they deserve, I’ll be happy.
Before my mum’s diagnosis, I probably knew next to nothing about epilepsy. Epilepsy Action does such a fantastic job in helping people with expert advice, information and support when they need it most. I have met some amazing people, heard amazing stories of bravery and I am still learning about the condition, in order to help spread the word and to work towards epilepsy being a condition everyone is aware of.
I am speaking out about epilepsy this Purple Day because people need to understand that it’s about more than just seizures. It’s heart-breaking to hear stories of how badly it impacts on people’s feelings and self-esteem.