National Doodle Day paves the way for better support and awareness.

We all doodle when we are bored; in classrooms, in lecture halls and at office desks. But what if your doodle could help somebody feel a little better as opposed to just appease your boredom?

Well National Doodle Day took your doodles, turned them into cash and then Epilepsy Action channelled them into their website, helplines, forums and UK wide support groups to help those with the condition and raise awareness to those who don’t.

A record £14,500 was raised in this year’s celebrity auction after nine years of the original fundraiser. Over 200 celebrities took part this year and their pictures went on auction. Celebrities, schools, businesses and individuals were all invited to send in their doodles. The rest of the doodles were put into a competition, which cost £1 to enter, and prizes are still to be announced.

Epilepsy is a very misunderstood condition and can affect anybody at any time. Over 54,000 people in Scotland alone have epilepsy, there are lots of different types, making it very difficult to diagnose. It is a very individual condition which means support sometimes has to be individual too.

Louise Cousins from Epilepsy Action said:
“National Doodle Day is a fun, easy and simple way of supporting people with epilepsy. Anybody can take part in it, you don’t have to be able to run a marathon or climb a mountain. The money raised goes towards making the services we offer better as well as enhancing health services – there are not enough specialised nurses.”

Debbie Keenan (29) is a support worker from Glasgow and agrees saying, “It sounds accessible and fun, getting celebrities involved is always a good way to raise awareness.”
Debbie’s job is to assist people to live independently in their own homes and this can include people who have epilepsy. She had to go through training to learn about the different types of seizures and to learn how to administer medication to the people that she works with.

“Honestly, before I did the training I didn’t know very much about the condition. My generation are very unaware and the stereotypes we pick up are completely wrong. I learned how to react and help in a situation where somebody was having a seizure and I was surprised at the steps involved – you don’t find out about these things until you need to.”

She said that it is important that she had the training because of the individual that she works with but it should also be important to include more information in general first aid courses because anybody could have a seizure at any point. She found it surprising how many people live with the condition.

Around 70% of those with epilepsy can have episodes controlled by medication; the other 30% can be cured by brain surgery or by just learning to live with it.

Rachel Hanretty (23) from Glasgow was diagnosed at the age of only 11 and went through neurosurgery at the age of 15 to remove the part of her brain that was causing the seizures.

However, at 21 years old Rachel’s epilepsy came back and she now has to learn to deal with the condition all over again. She describes her situation as “unique” but she is not alone.

Although she doesn’t have what she describes as “full blown epilepsy,” Rachel still believes that it is important that people understand about simple seizures:

“I think National Doodle Day is great because it breaks it down…a lot of people get really tense when you talk about epilepsy, people should be less scared.

I was really unhappy when the epilepsy came back and I was put on medication, the devastation of seeing those men in paramedic outfits after I came to…no not again. Nobody could understand the seizures I was having or describe them. There aren’t enough epilepsy nurses out there and the few that there are, are overworked. I felt like my situation wasn’t as bad as some and I was told it could be a lot worse; it made me feel guilty for speaking about it.”

Rachel has already tried to raise awareness about epilepsy independently and also by working with charities.

She says, “I know that support is available but only because I have kept up with Epilepsy Scotland, I think the helpline is in particular a great idea. However, I have never really used the support available because of my own pride, I don’t want to sound defeated by asking for help.”

However, only 12 years ago when Rachel was first diagnosed, she was not told about the ‘teen’ support groups available to her. It was only as she got older that she became aware of what was out there for her.

Charlene Black (34) also lives in Glasgow and was diagnosed with epilepsy 19 years ago:
“I didn’t receive very much support at all except from my own parents. My brother was also diagnosed with the condition 6 years ago when he was 31 years old, he found that he wasn’t made aware to any support either.

However, my friend’s child was also diagnosed around that time and she received more support and guidance. Although it isn’t always needed, it is nice to know that it is there.”
Epilepsy doesn’t have to be misunderstood and people shouldn’t have to feel alone when first diagnosed. Sometimes just finding somebody else who is willing to talk about their situation can help.

Not everyone can run a marathon, or do a sponsored swim, but everyone can draw something, even if it isn’t a work of art.

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