Poor epilepsy support

Tracey Doherty with daughter Emilee who has epilepsy, like one in 50 Australians.
Tracey Doherty with daughter Emilee who has epilepsy, like one in 50 Australians. Blainey Woodham

KINDERGARTEN student Emilee Doherty has five types of epilepsy.

It's a big load for the five-year-old Caniaba resident to bear and her parents help her carry it.

"There are things we have to be aware of daily," Emilee's mum Tracey Doherty said.

"Her seizures are triggered by fatigue, stress and anxiety.

"She had a seizure last night and I'm actually expecting her to have one tonight."

Ms Doherty first noticed Emilee was epileptic when she became uncharacteristically violent and destructive as a toddler.

"She tried to break a glass cabinet in a store we were in and that's when I said to my husband, 'something isn't quite right'."

According to Epilepsy Action Australia, almost two out of every 100 Australians have some form of epilepsy and there are approximately 40 types of epilepsy. Many are more subtle than the well-known tonic-clonic seizure, which sends the body into a jerking motion.

"On holidays we picked up that Emilee's right foot drops and drags and the more she tries to lift it up the worse it gets. That's actually a seizure," Ms Doherty said.

If living with epilepsy wasn't a big enough challenge, then having an inadequate local support network has added to the problem.

The working mother has struggled to find an after-school care organisation that will take Emilee on.

"I own my own business and I have to finish all my jobs and explain to my clients that I have to be back to pick Emilee up from school at 2.30pm every day," Ms Doherty said.

She claimed most local childcare organisations do not have appropriately trained staff or facilities to cater for epileptic children.

The Dohertys turned to Epilepsy Queensland for support. The non-profit organisation recently sent a person to train Emilee's teachers at Caniaba Public School in how to care for epileptic children.

In the meantime, epilepsy hasn't held back Emilee and she has attended dancing and swimming lessons each week.

Ms Doherty said although Emilee's seizure activity was heightened on those days, it would not deter them from living normal lives.

"We instil in our children that epilepsy is not an excuse - it's a lifestyle," Ms Doherty said.

Purple Day is a global epilepsy awareness day held each year on March 26 and it means a lot to the Dohertys.

"She (Emilee) has got something that's different to everybody else and I don't want her to be mocked or teased," Ms Doherty said. "(Purple Day) is a way to show Emilee that epilepsy is nothing to be embarrassed about or shy away from.

"There's a big stigma people have about epilepsy and it needs to be broken. The more they're educated about it, the more they understand how to deal with it."

Ms Doherty has organised a barefoot bowls charity day to be held at South Lismore Bowling Club on Sunday, March 25. All proceeds will go to Epilepsy Queensland.

Contact Ms Doherty on 0408 865 665 for more information.

Topics:  community epilepsy queensland health purple day

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