I was 12 1/2 and had just returned home from my first school trip to Austria. I was tidying my attic bedroom when I woke up on the floor. Strangely, the first thought to come to mind was not “why am I on the floor with a cracking headache in the middle of a heap of papers”; instead, I honed in the desperate need to pee and so I pulled myself up to the top of the attic stairs.
At this point I must have lost consciousness because I heard the crash of my body hitting the stairs and taking my dad’s library of bookshelves with it. I certainly felt the effects of hitting the floor at the bottom, but what probably saved me from breaking anything was that my body was limp from being unconscious.
My sister Ali (one of 3 of my sisters) heard the crashing sound from the living room and came running up the stairs. I opened my eyes to see her standing over me flinging books across the room to try to un-bury me. She was really scared. She ran downstairs crying out “Mummy, mummy Ruthie’s fallen downstairs!”
I tried to explain what had happened, but I couldn’t talk properly and I couldn’t remember what had happened prior to waking up ont he bedroom floor. They took me to hospital in the Landrover. It took two years for me to remember what had happened. I was watching the black and white television in my bedroom. When I stood up to turn it off I had a seizure. I obviously didn’t know what was going on during the seizure, but I remember the feeling that I experienced again many times afterwards when I was heading for the floor at rapid speed.
The pediatrician was suspicious, but I had never fainted before and so on that occasion he decided that it was most likely a faint.
Two weeks later I woke up ont he kitchen floor with chairs strewn all around me. I had done a good job of redecorating mum’s kitchen. I had a cracking headache (slate floor). I somehow made it upstairs to where mum was hoovering. I told her I felt ill so she put me to bed. She didn’t realise what I meant untill she went downstairs to see the remains of her kitchen, vase of flowers all over the table, chairs all over the floor. Another trip to hospital. No witnesses no diagnosis.
It was during a school history class age 13 that I was finally diagnosed. It was time to leave. We had been watching ‘Escape from Sobibore’. I got up to go and was puzzled to see the floor travelling towards me at speed. I came around looking into the eyes of the school nurse and my history teacher. My two friends were anxiously peering over the side, they were allowed to go when I came around. Up till then no-one had seen me have a seizure. My teacher’s brother had epilepsy so he had known what to do so he protected my head from the floor. I had still hit my head quite badly.
Some time afterwards one of my classmates said that she didn’t know i was epileptic (It had come as news to me two) apparently she thought I was doing an impression of one of the Sobibore inmates. She is now an actress. I understand that no-one ever watched the film again at school.
Although It was a relief to have a diagnosis of some kind it did come at a price.
Back in the Nineties, the answer to juvenile myconic epilepsy was medication. That is when my problems really began.