Ashleigh’s Story

Ashleigh’s Story

I was a healthy active person; during school I played touch and hockey and was good at running long distances. I had my first seizure when I was 16 and at that time didn’t realize how much it was going to affect my life. Living with a chronic illness has impacted  me in ways a healthy person can’t even comprehend.

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When the seizure first happened I was taken to hospital and  drugs were used to knock me out for a while. Then I woke up  feeling very confused. Doctors came and went and spoke in terms I didn’t really understand. At that point in life I was under a lot of stress with home life. The doctors thought I was suffering from psychological seizures and suggested that a bit of counseling would stop them from happening.

But this wasn’t the case, over the next few months, the seizures just kept getting worse and worse. I was put on different medicines to try to control them which eventually worked but I personally felt I was fighting the medical world to be heard. I was back to my old self and picked up my life where it had been put on hold for awhile. I continued to go to school and work and took up break dancing, I was happy.  For the next couple of years I was dancing nearly 4 times a week and life was looking pretty great. You wouldn’t even have been able to tell I had epilepsy! I didn’t even feel like I was sick except for the fact I was taking tablets each morning and night.

I was doing so well that the doctors decided to reduce my medicine, I didn’t even think about the ifs and buts of doing this. After all they’re the professionals in medicine why not listen to them, right?

Three days after the change in my medication I decided  to take my adventurous self and  go tubing on a friend’s boat. I remember it being an awesome day! But things turned wrong very quickly. I suffered a tonic clonic seizure on the tube, fortunately the people around me were strong enough to keep me above the water. I was taken to hospital to where my friends and family were told I would be fine to go home in a while. Unfortunately my body went into status epilepticus and to protect my brain I was placed in an induced coma and taken to the intensive care unit.  I went from being an active, fun and carefree person to a person now fighting for their life on life support that day.

So many complications occurred during the ICU admission including: kidney failure, heart troubles and rhabdomyolysis (all my muscles were wasting away) and when I had finally woke up and got my head around everything I was scared and in shock and in a little bit of denial that something so big has just happened to me. I thought of the why me saga a lot and what I had done wrong in  life to deserve this outcome. After all I was only 20 years old and the thought of learning to walk again was taking its toll on me.

The loss of independence of a once capable healthy body saw me feeling like a burden to everyone which, in turn, led me to withdraw and isolate myself away from nurses, family and friends. The adjustment of daily life which now consisted of needing help to do basic things, needles and painful physio everyday got too much for me. And being stuck in an elderly rehab facility where there is no one else your age to talk to or lean on for support made it a lot harder. I knew that dwelling on what had happened to me was going to be hard to stop, but with the help of a psychologist and a leisure therapist each day I was able to  think positive and see how much improvement I had made from the day before.

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No one can ever be prepared for the tremendous impact, disruption  and despair that a life threatening experience can bring to one’s life. But if you can find strength, courage and determination to maintain a fighting spirit and a belief within yourself it can help you  get through another day.

Since the accident in 2011 I have regained my life and independence back. I’m back to being happy and living my life the way it should be lived! 🙂 I always get asked if I’m scared it will happen again? In the back of my mind I’m terrified at the possibility it could happen again and what if I’m not as lucky this time. But I can’t live my life thinking that way so I tend to live in the moment and make the most of what I have got 🙂

The next big journey in my life  is happening this year with the arrival of my baby girl in September and I’m ready to embrace motherhood and enjoy life. I’ll always have epilepsy but I will refuse to let epilepsy have me. We can do anything we put our minds to and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. My life is just as normal as anyone else because I make it that way and don’t let epilepsy be the focus.  I’m ready to continue my life and take all the experiences I’ve learnt in recovery and turn it into something great ! I’m not one to give up and I know great things are waiting for me.

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