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Disability Narratives

Sixteen years ago Jan had her first tonic-clonic epileptic seizure at work. Although her epilepsy does have an impact on her work, she has not yet had to ask for any support from the University.

Portrait of JanBackground

at the time of the interview – 2016

Jan is a senior Bursary Clerk at Wadham College. She has two children.
Ethnic Background/Nationality: White British.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - 2016

Jan has worked at Wadham College for seventeen years, mostly in the accounts department. When she started she was part-time, but became full-time three or four years later and for the last six years she worked as a senior Bursary Clerk.

Jan had her first epileptic seizure in her office around sixteen years ago. She said that she did not know anything about it until she came round in the hospital. Jan recalled that she was very worried in the weeks after the first seizure that it might affect her employment, however she found colleagues and managers to be understanding and supportive.

Jan is not aware of why she has seizures or what triggers them. She has around six or seven seizures a year, but they are not all full 'tonic-clonic' or 'grand-mal' seizures where the person collapses and/or 'fits'. Some of the seizures are 'absence' seizures and she occasionally has these at work. Jan said it is not always obvious to onlookers that she is having an absence seizure. When they do happen they tend not to go on for too long. Jan manages the seizure by sitting quietly until it has passed.

Jan has only told close friends at work about her condition. Jan said that she is quite a private person so has not felt the need to share with too many colleagues when she has had an absence seizure. She has told one or two over the years so that in the event that she had a grand-mal seizure, they would know what to do. Jan's manager changed a few years ago and she only told her new manager after having to take a day off after a grand-mal seizure.

 

[An epileptic seizure] affects my memory. And that's quite scary. So you, you could come round and not immediately be able to remember things.

Jan said that the different types of seizure affect her work differently. The grand-mal type can leave her with very bad headaches and feeling exhausted. When these happen she often has to take one or two days off to recover. However, Jan said she can often carry on with work after an absence seizure.

An epileptic seizure does affect Jan’s memory, which can be quite worrying, especially when she comes round, confused, and unable to remember what happened. This usually comes back fairly quickly. But her epilepsy also affects her long term memory, which can make learning new procedures or processes difficulty. Jan said that she has good coping mechanisms, such as making detailed notes.

Jan said she had not thought of epilepsy as a disability before. She said she has not yet had to seek formal support from managers, colleagues, personnel or Occupational Health. However, should things get worse, she did not feel that she would struggle to ask for help or that it would not be forthcoming.

Biography at the time of the interview - 2016