STARS Patient Information

Ela Star Garside’s Story

After spending the day relaxing in the July sun in my family garden I headed off to start work in my local pub where, after a couple of hours, I suffered my first convulsion.

I can recall being behind the bar laughing with a customer whilst pulling a pint of bitter, the next minute I remember waking up on a hospital bed asking for my father. I was informed that I had had an epileptic fit, which anybody can have at any time in their life, told not to worry too much, just carry on as normal, and then sent home. 

Returning to work a week later, I felt happy and healthy, until one particular evening after finishing my shift when I suffered my second fit. My partner Michael, who had come to collect me, was waiting for me to gather my things and take me for dinner. He said that I wasn’t listening to him when he was asked me where I wanted to go because I seemed to be in a world of my own. Thinking back I can remember standing in the bar, not caring where we went for dinner and feeling very irritated and confused. 

Once again, the next thing I remember was waking up in hospital with a lump on my head and a swollen tongue. Michael had caught me as I fell, and had carried me away from the bar area where he sat on the floor with me during the convulsion that lasted a couple of minutes. I had then managed to walk to the ambulance, none of which I can remember.

The following day I had extensive tests at the Alexander Hospital to try to determine why this had happened to me, and if it could, or would happen again.

Several days later I was told by the hospital consultant that I was epileptic, even though the tests did not provide any evidence to support this diagnosis. I was told in quite a matter of fact manner that I had better get used to the idea and learn to live with it. I was prescribed a course of ‘Epilim’ and told to take three tablets a day, not to drive, not to drink, and visit my GP in a couple of months.

Having spent a period of six months on the drugs and followed the orders of no driving or drinking I couldn’t help but notice the several dramatic side effects that the Epilim was causing; I had put on several pounds in weight and had started to lose my hair.

At this point my mother decided that she was not happy with the diagnosis and insisted we go and see our GP, who is a family friend. He shared my mothers concerns and said that if I were his daughter, he would stop the tablets straight away, and get a second opinion.

That is when we met Dr Adam Fitzpatrick. After several sessions with Dr Fitzpatrick, discussing my experiences and my symptoms, I agreed to have a tilt table test that would hopefully determine the real cause of my fits.

The test itself was a great turning point for me, as it helped me to recognise the feelings I had during the build up to the convulsion. I finally related the feelings of being irritated, distant, dizzy, flustered and frustrated with the beginning of the fit.

Armed with the results of the test, Dr Fitzpatrick later diagnosed me as suffering from severely low blood pressure, which in turn had lead to me having several convulsions. I was then prescribed a course of Gutron, a medication only available in America. I started with three tablets a day and over a period of about eighteen months reduced the dosage to one.

Looking back I now realise that I was at a crossroads and Dr Fitzpatrick gave me back my life by preventing me from taking what would have been an unimaginable, unnecessary alternative route.

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