February 14 is supposed to be all about love. Flowers and chocolates. Romantic propositions on the banks of the Seine. Cosy night in with a rom-com and a bottle of wine. Candle lit dinners and violins. Right?
Yesterday, I discovered that St Valentine is not only the patron saint of lovers but also of epilepsy. I’ve had epilepsy for over five years now following a stroke and it’s not very well controlled. I’ve had seizures at work, where they know how to cope with them, seizures at home and a seizure in a supermarket where a friend was with me. My biggest nightmare has been that I would have a seizure in the street when I was on my own.
I live in Glasgow and work in a call centre as a customer services agent for a well known department store. I only work part time but I enjoy the job and the fact that I can have a laugh with my work mates. So, there I am on the bus and I start getting an ‘aura’. This varies from person to person among epilepsy sufferers and some don’t get any warning at all. We were just getting to my stop, right opposite Central Station on Hope Street. Somehow, I managed to get off the bus.
I came round lying on the damp pavement with a lovely young woman, who I discovered was called Claire (Clare?) kneeling beside me and talking on the phone to the emergency services. Several other people were offering their help. As I became more aware of my situation, I felt really embarrassed that I had made an exhibition of myself in the street but then I suddenly realised that actually no one was staring or laughing. Everyone was genuinely concerned and it seemed as if every second person stopped to offer help.
The ambulance arrived and I was taken to hospital where some checks were done and I was sent home to sleep off the effects of the seizure. Apart from a few bruises, no damage done.
It was only later that I had time to really think about what had happened. Glasgow is a big city and it was the morning rush hour, yet all those people took a moment to check I was ok, to offer their help, to offer support to Claire who stayed with me until the ambulance arrived. My worst nightmare had happened and it hadn’t been nearly as bad as I thought.
Love isn’t about a ridiculously expensive bunch of red roses, or a heart shaped box of chocolates. True love is about caring for your fellow man, about seeing a woman lying in the street and stopping to do something about it.
Next year, though, St Valentine, please can I have the chocolate and flowers instead?
To find out more about epilepsy and what you should do if you see someone having a seizure, visit Epilepsy Scotland or search epilepsy on the internet to find out about epilepsy services in your area