When most 16 year old girls are planning what to wear to their high school graduation party or planning for university, Jessica Ashwood was planning how to live a life with epilepsy.
“At first I was just having small seizures that would cause me to fall over or lose consciousness but nothing too bad,” Jessica said.
It wasn’t long before the seizures progressed to a point where Jessica had to stop driving and working and go on medication.
“By the time I was 18 I was having up to 10 violent seizures every day,” Jessica said.
“I would lose control of my bladder, smash my teeth on the floor and even mangle my tongue from biting down so hard,” she said.
“I was on a lot of medication to try to control the seizures but I didn’t want to be reliant on the drugs, so chose to go off them for a time.”
The decision to stay try to manage her epilepsy without medication was problematic, and Jessica’s seizures escalated.
Throughout this time she was under the care of Nambour Hospital neurologist Doctor Tomin Mooney.
“Jessica was constantly presenting to Emergency and we were incredibly lucky that in 2011 my Department had an EEG machine funded through Wishlist to help sort out her seizures,” Dr Mooney said.
“Jessica is just one of many hundreds of local epilepsy sufferers who have benefited from this piece of equipment,” he said.
Wishlist committed more than $47,000 for purchase of the EEG machine – an investigation tool for patients with epilepsy, suspected epilepsy and other related disorders where there is a disturbance of the electrical rhythm of the brain.
“Without this piece of equipment, Jessica would have had to travel to Brisbane to access the necessary testing she needed, and still needs today,” Dr Mooney.
In 2013 Jessica’s EEG reading was normal, indicating she was outgrowing her condition.
“This can be quite common in people who have early onset epilepsy,” Doctor Mooney said.
But it was throughout 2014 – when Jessica fell pregnant unexpectedly – that her then recently normalised EEG readings were crucial in avoiding unnecessary seizure medications.
“I had been told I’d never fall pregnant because of my condition and the medication I had been on, but amazingly I was seizure free during my entire pregnancy,” Jessica said.
Today, Jessica is four years seizure free, has a healthy baby boy who is nearly 2 years old, is driving and working again – and planning on studying nursing.
“I had a check-up with Doctor Mooney at the start of the year and my EEG was perfect. He said to me there’s no reason I can’t go on to live a long, healthy life and it was just the best feeling to feel like that’s truly possible,” she said.
Doctor Mooney said Jessica’s journey was definitely a good news story.
“The EEG testing done at Nambour Hospital have given both Jessica and us as her medical team the confidence to stop the seizure medication and reassure us all that she is cured of her epilepsy now,” Dr Mooney said.
“Without the EEG machine she would have had to the Royal Brisbane Hospital or pay out of pocket expenses of up to $150 every appointment to get the EEG done privately,” he said.
Jessica – who is 25 years old this year – has grasped her new diagnosis with both hands.
“I’m leading a happier, healthier life and am so incredibly excited to get a real chance at life – not just for me, but for my son too,” she said.
Doctor Mooney applied for the EEG funding as part of Wishlist’s annual $1-million dollar commitment to project and research funding.
Wishlist is currently raising funds for Doctor Mooney’s latest request, a $52,000 Nerve Conduction EMG Monitor to further grow the local neurology service in neuromuscular disorders and also help diagnose certain rare epilepsy conditions.
To give visit www.wishlist.org.au