A woman from Liverpool was diagnosed with a life-long condition after appearing drunk at work.
Annie Newcomen, 22, was rushed to A&E by a concerned colleague, who “knew something was wrong” after watching her strange behavior.
The A&E department told the speech therapist that her symptoms were stress related, but she knew that “it couldn’t have been because of that”. The following day she contacted her GP who referred her to The Walton Center to see a neurologist at the end of March.
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Annie, from Aigburth, told the ECHO: “In work I kept on feeling strange, I had a lot of deja vu experiences. I would feel as though I had forgotten everything, I would be on the ward and go to the office – but forget why I was there, or what I was doing.
“I didn’t feel stressed, I mean, the work I do can sometimes be stressful but I wasn’t stressed, everyone’s job is a bit stressful. I was taken to A&E that day as one of my colleagues knew something was up, they said it seemed as though I was covering up that I was drunk, that’s how I was presenting myself.”
Following the GP appointment Annie underwent a series of tests including bloods and an ECG. The results “came back fine”, but Annie was still experiencing her symptoms intermittently, she said: “Some days I would be completely fine, then others I wouldn’t.”
By Wednesday Annie was “feeling really bad”, she called The Walton Center immediately and explained that she had her test booked for the end of March, but felt she couldn’t wait any longer. She said: “My manager even thought that I shouldn’t have been working, but in my head I thought I wasn’t putting anyone at risk, and I was still able to do my job to at least 70% of my ability. “
The Walton Center agreed to see Annie the following day, she explained her symptoms to the neurologist – She told the ECHO: “I couldn’t speak after the episodes occurred and I would get a foggy brain. He turned around and said to me that I have epilepsy.
“I was shocked, I thought epilepsy was something you could only get when you were a kid and grow up with it, I didn’t think it could come on in adult life. He told me you can get it at any age.
“I was wondering how he could know I have epilepsy without doing any formal tests. Basically it is diagnosed, mainly, by someone describing their symptoms, and then if they are able to pick it up on EEG [Electroencephalogram] – they can then do a formal diagnosis.
“But if you are not having a seizure at that moment in time, it may never show up on the test. He said no matter if the tests come back fine, I will still have epilepsy, as it has happened on over seven occasions. “
She added: “He told me ‘you have your drivers license taken off you, you can’t take a bath, you can’t go swimming without a lifeguard’ – a lot of my independence has just been stripped away from me. I was having about two or three seizures a day then, for about three weeks.”
Annie was given medication, and now that she is on an increased dosage, she has said that she can feel it beginning to work. Her seizures have now lessened to about two to three times a week, rather than daily.
The speech therapist suffers from focal seizures. When an epileptic seizure starts in one side of the brain, it’s called a focal onset seizure or a focal seizure, both terms mean the same thing. Until recently these seizures were called partial seizures.
Annie said: “My body twitches, it is not a fall to the floor type of seizure. My eyes flicker, I completely zone out – it is as if I leave the room – I am still conscious, but my mind is not there.
“Afterwards it takes about six or seven minutes to be able to talk. I am a speech therapist, the last five years of my life have been focusing on speech and communication, and then for me not to be able to communicate, It is how I knew something was definitely not right.
“It has been a massive life change for me. I have had to come to terms with the fact that this is happening to me, rather than me treating patients – like I treat patients who have had operations for epilepsy – and now I’m the patient.
“I am waiting on results coming back from my EEG at the end of this month. In terms of my job, I need to wait for the time being until my seizures are under control, but work are being so supportive of me and really understanding about what is going on.”
She added: “It was really hard at first, but now I am starting to have a more positive outlook on everything. I think now I know what my triggers are, it will become easier to have control over.”
Annie’s form of epilepsy is triggered by her stress levels, tiredness, and her nutrition. Keeping a seizure diary, she was able to discover that if she was to skip a meal she would have a focal seizure.
She told the ECHO: “My whole outlook on life has completely changed. I know it is cliché but life is too short, I was petrified at first thinking that it could have been a brain tumor or anything, weird as it is to say, I am lucky it is only epilepsy, if that makes sense.
“I look at it now like, you can’t take anything for granted and you have to enjoy everything that you have in life. When they’re taken away from you, things like going to work or driving a car, that’s when you realize how lucky you actually were.”