Living with epilepsy: Lorraine, a barrister, says she is lucky to be self-employed

Living with epilepsy: Lorraine, a barrister, says she is lucky to be self-employed

By Sylvia Thompson: The Irish Times
Tuesday, 30th August 2016
Filed under: HiddenDisability

Barrister Lorraine Lally was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was eight. “It’s a life-long medical condition which you need to be brave about but I’ve always told people I have it,” says Lally.

A well-educated advocate for people with hidden disabilities, Lally admits that the difficulty most people have is the fear of having a seizure. “Up to 70 per cent of epilepsy can be controlled with drugs but, unfortunately, I am in the other 30 per cent of people whose epilepsy can’t be controlled,” she explains.

So, Lally always tells her friends that protecting her head is the most important thing to do if she has a seizure. “In my case, the body goes rigid and then moves into a jerky state. The key is to put something under the head of someone having a seizure as the body will usually recover by itself.

“I ask people to put me in the recovery position [lying on one’s side], to use one of my hands to keep my airways open and the other to prevent me rolling backwards. It’s useful to time the length of the seizure,” she explains.

Most seizures last for between 60-90 seconds and an ambulance should be called if a seizure lasts for more than three minutes.

Lally says education and a supportive work environment are keys to coping with epilepsy. “I’m lucky that I’m self-employed and can manage my time.”

She says that spending long hours on computers can be difficult for people with epilepsy.

“There is a high number of adults with epilepsy who are unemployed due to misunderstanding about the condition. A lot of trade unions offer advice to people with hidden disabilities and there is good support for employers now.”

Lally says regular meals, adequate sleep and advanced planning are essential. “I’m meticulously organised about what I do. My condition doesn’t affect me cognitively. I manage my days. I don’t drive and I’ve great support from colleagues. I believe in focusing on what you can control and seeking supports if you need them,” she says.

As part of her ongoing effort to educate herself and inform others, Lally is training to be an emergency medical technician with the Order of Maltaambulance services. “I think everyone should know first aid and be taught how to help someone who has a seizure,” she says.

She adds, “all people with epilepsy want is equality of opportunity – the same options and choices that everyone has on a given career path”.

“Success is relative but the chance to succeed should not be limited. Give a person with epilepsy the chance to shine and they will as I have been permitted to do – with great love and encouragement.”