Staying calm on epilepsy

By Sophie Ryan

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Most 8-year-olds wouldn't think twice about running beside a river with the sunlight bouncing off it.

But for Paige Tyler this flickering light could cause an epileptic seizure.

However, having epilepsy doesn't hold this 8-year-old back. When she fronted the media to raise awareness for epilepsy, she had just arrived back from school camp and talked enthusiastically about starting the soccer season soon.

Paige has taken on a spokesperson role with Seizure Support, a community group for epilepsy sufferers, their families and friends. Paige and her mother, Saffron Offen, who also has epilepsy, were founding members.

Paige has given a speech to her classmates about epilepsy seizures.

"I tell them to stay calm," she said.

"If it's a really bad one, they know to call an ambulance."

Seizure Support co-ordinator Elaine Goldthorpe said a stigma was still attached to the illness, which affects about 1500 Northlanders.

"We are living in the Dark Ages. People think their kids can't go on school camps or can't go to sleep-overs because they have epilepsy."

This isn't the case for Paige, who insists the illness doesn't scare her.

Mrs Offen says she feels lucky she can explain the illness to her daughter and share first-hand accounts with her.

Most people with epilepsy suffer from tonic-clonic seizures, which causes muscles to stiffen, contract and people to lose consciousness.

Complex partial seizures can occur for some people and are dangerous as they are not easily recognisable. They can happen in the brain without any body movement and are usually over quickly.

Paige has learnt to manage these two types with medication and by avoiding triggers such as flashing light, sunlight, exhaustion and over-excitedness.

Caryn Magrath, Paige's teacher at Hurupaki School, says she doesn't treat Paige any differently to any other pupil in the Year 3 class.

"She self-manages very well. She said she was feeling hot and tired the other day, so just told me she needed to sit outside in the fresh air for a while," she said.

Seizure Support is having a day-trip on the R Thompson Tucker Tall Ship in Paihia on Saturday, March 9.

Paige is excited. "We're going to climb the rigging," she said.

Purple Day, the international awareness day for epilepsy, is March 26.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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