By A. VICTOR
I had my first epileptic attack during my first semester in college. I remember waking up in a hospital bed, surrounded by a few of my housemates. I had no recollection of what happened. My housemates told me that the evening before, I had convulsions and fell on the floor, unconscious. They called for the ambulance.
The attending doctor asked me if I had any history of seizures. There were none. I had flu and fever for a week prior to the seizure, though.
My mother rushed down from Johor to visit me at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital where I was warded.
It came as a blow to me when the doctor told me that I had suffered from meningitis, which had triggered the epileptic attack. After I was discharged from hospital, I did research on the Internet, and learnt that treatments for epilepsy have come a long way in the past decade. There are more than twice as many epilepsy medications now compared to 10 years ago. There is no known cure for epilepsy and medications only serve to keep symptoms under control.
I was intriqued to learn that some patients opt for a temporal lobe resection – a surgery performed on the brain to control seizures. In this procedure, brain tissue in the temporal lobe is removed to eliminate the seizure focus. There are no promises that a relapse would not occur.
When I graduated from university with a degree in Marketing in 2004, I returned to Batu Pahat, my hometown, to look for a job. My first few years in the job market were marked by one seizure after another. This affected my confidence and self-esteem, and caused me to withdraw socially.
My bosses and colleagues were puzzled by my fainting spells. To cover up, I would tell them that I hadn’t been eating well as I had fever. I felt so alone and misunderstood.
I have a few friends who are aware of my medical condition but I kept my distance from them as I was embarrassed about my occasional fits. I felt helpless as I never know when the next attack would be. It could happen anytime, anywhere. I dreaded the thought of having an epileptic attack when I am eating at the coffeeshop, only to regain consciousness and see strange faces gathered around me as I try to pick myself up from the floor.
As the years rolled by, many of my peers secured good jobs and some even got hitched. I yearned to have a normal life just like them. I could not even land a job linked to my field of study. I felt a growing sense of inferiority and slipped into depression. I was overwhelmed by sadness and despair. During that time, I would lash out at those around me who cared for me. I hated myself and entertained thoughts of suicide.
My family members rallied behind me. Thanks to their love and support, I realised I needed to be strong and face challenges in my stride. I learnt to have faith in myself and to press on when the going gets tough.
I have been seeing a neurologist at a private hospital for the past three years. I am quite happy with my progress now. I have to take a daily cocktail of medication, which rakes up a fat monthly bill. I work as a tuition teacher to make ends meet.
A few months ago, a friend introduced me to Origin Point Therapy. It was pioneered by Taiwan-based Dr Chang Chao Han, a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I tried it, and found that it cuts down the frequency of my epileptic attacks.
I feel less stressed out now, and I go jogging to keep fit. I am mindful of my diet, too.
My mum was there for me through thick and thin. Her unconditional love and words of encouragement gave me renewed hope and purpose in life. I am forever grateful to her. I pray for the day when I will be free from relapses, drugs and visits to the doctor’s clinic.
Beyond Barriers is a platform for sharing and raising awareness on disability issues and any chronic medical condition. We welcome contributions from readers who have a disability or any special needs, caregivers, advocates of disability groups, or anyone living with any chronic medical condition. E-mail your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributions which are published will be paid, so please include your full name, IC number, address and contact number.