Looking Back on 2016
It’s only on reflection of my year that I realise it may have possibly been the most exciting, whirlwind year for me… ever. I know, I know, I am only 22 but honestly, it has been incredible. I am going to do a quick overview of my year, as I can go into more detail in future stories on Living Well through my blog. It may not be my best written piece, but I am going to try and fit it all in as much as possible!
The start of the year is a bit of a blur for me, somewhat like last year, but I will do my best to put it all together.
December 2015 was when I mentally got myself together and prepared myself for 2016. I was doing well; I hadn’t had any seizures so this was fantastic. I had also started writing a children’s book for young children going through the diagnosis of Epilepsy, and a local artist named Saskia Bates offered to do the illustrations for me. Keep reading on for updates!
January came and I decided it was going to be my year (I know, everyone says this). I had booked a few days annual leave off work, so I got up early morning on the 1st January and took my camera out with me. I remember it being a beautiful frosty morning, I could see my breath and hear the leaves crunch under my boots. I love mornings like these so I was very happy. I had 5 months left in my Admin job before my years contract was out, and I was doing a business administration course to complete my year. In 2015 I felt pretty low about it and I was convinced I couldn’t do it, but when I was out with my camera I felt really motivated and I told myself I WOULD and I COULD pass it, and I felt ready to go back to work.
On the 16th January I made a rallying call to people to nominate their Epilepsy Champion. As a lot of you may remember, March 2015 I was invited to attend Young Epilepsy’s Champion Awards in London to represent Living Well with Epilepsy, and I was invited in 2016 too, how amazing! Young Epilepsy launched nominations to find the UK’s epilepsy champions. For those of you who may have missed my media coverage, Young Epilepsy Champions Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals, groups and organisations across the country.
I helped the team to raise awareness of the awards so that more people can get recognition for what they have achieved, wonderful things they have done or those who have been a support to people living with epilepsy.
On the 23rd January I reached the 8 month seizure free mark, and I felt FANTASTIC.
February came along and I made it to the front page of the Newspaper for my Epilepsy Champions campaign!! I was reaching more and more people!
March was a pretty nice month, Mums birthday is in March so it’s always a special one, but we also fostered a Greyhound for the month. In November 2015 we lost our Border collie, Bryn, who meant a lot to us. He was also great at detecting my seizures!!
We did a lot of research into Greyhounds, and Mum has always wanted one since she was young. We found a boarding Kennels called Bark Inn, and we went to take a look. They were really good, they let you walk a few Greyhounds to see what you think, and then you foster for a month. If you’re happy, you get to adopt. Another thing I liked about the Kennels is that they do a house check; they don’t just let any old fella foster a dog.
April came around quite fast, and it was a bit of a whirlwind month.
At the beginning of April I was told I had been nominated and then shortlisted for the Young Epilepsy champions awards 2016!! I was nominated for The Inspirational Shining Star Award for having a positive outlook with regards to my condition and I was told that those around me admire my openness and strength. I was also nominated because I am a dedicated advocate for epilepsy awareness and I devote my time to learning more about my condition and to help others in a similar situation.
I was coming up to 11 months seizure free, but on the 11th April on my way into work, I had a seizure.
I had started a car share to work in January with a lovely lady called Nicola who looked after me really well; she was aware that I had Epilepsy and always took care. I woke up in the morning feeling a bit off it. I had a funny feeling in my stomach, which was a bit like an Aura. I still headed off to work, thinking it was maybe just where I’d rushed my breakfast or something.
We got onto the A38, and I suddenly went really clammy and I felt like I was going to throw up. I got a metallic taste in my mouth, I grabbed a bag from my work bag and told my friend that I felt bad. I opened the window to try and get some air to me, but that is all I remember. According to the hospital, I had a seizure on and off for over 30 minutes and I went into Status. I woke up in the Resuscitation unit intubated and wired up.
It was a hard time recovering from this, but after a week I went back to work and I got on with life. I actually went back the day after being discharged, but work sent me home!!
A week or so later I was invited to go to Radio Derby to talk about my Children’s Epilepsy book going into the City hospital. It was printed and ready to go, and it was in the mail to me whilst I was on the radio. It was amazing. I was so nervous about being live but it wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting. Sally pepper was also very welcoming.
In April my book arrived. Seeing it in hardback, printed and there in real life was surreal. I can’t thank Saskia enough for her amazing skills in bringing my characters to life.
If you remember, at the start of this story I mentioned us fostering a Greyhound. Well, after a month of having her in our home, we adopted her. Her name is Amelia and she is very cute!
Another thing that happened in April was I went to my first Bingo game with my friend Sophie for her birthday. It was so much fun, and I won £50!!!
May came around fast; the year just seemed to fly by. At the beginning of May I got interviewed by the Derbyshire Times about my children’s book, I was so nervous but it was amazing to get my story about my story out there! Then, I completed a sponsored purple run/jog/walk with my Mum and brothers girlfriend Emily, for Young Epilepsy. It took us 5 whole hours to get to Surrey from our town, when in actual fact it should’ve taken about 3. We arrived and it was 30 degrees Celsius. We swore we were going to practically die but we made it, and then endured another 5 hours home in the traffic and road closures.
On the 18th May my Mum, Sister and I headed down to London for the Young Epilepsy Champions awards. It was incredible and we enjoyed some time in the City before the big night.
We sat, eyes welling up at everyone’s stories, then my video came on:
I knew that all the other nominees had been through a lot, and they were so strong, so I was replaying their stories in my head, thinking how incredible they are, when all of a sudden I heard ‘And the winner is, well everyone is a winner here but it’s Emily Donoghue!” and I just gasped. It is the biggest award I have ever won and I still can’t believe it now!
A few days after the award, I went to Birmingham with one of my old school friends to see my favourite band, Daughtry. It was an amazing night, we didn’t meet them this time but it was still brilliant. We then had a celebratory pizza at 12am to celebrate me being seizure free!!
At the end of May I finished my year of working in Medical Education, and I passed my qualification. In April I had been offered a job as a Healthcare Science Assistant (Renal Dialysis Technician) so I was waiting for my start date for this. I was so excited to get a job in a clinical role, which is what I have always wanted to do.
I can’t remember what happened in June, so I will skip to July!
On the 4th July I started my new job on the Dialysis Unit. I was so nervous at first and it crossed my mind a few times that I could no way do this job, there was so much to take in…but after a few days I settled in well. Everyone was very welcoming and I had great mentors. After about 8 weeks I was signed off to work alone with the patients without having to be monitored by a mentor. I was so scared but after a couple of shifts I found myself doing everything naturally without a problem.
On the 10th July I completed sponsored wing walk for Young Epilepsy:
I felt stick, and for a few minutes I regretted signing up for it, haha! Once the plane set off, I felt fantastic and to this day it is one of the greatest experiences ever. I was basically strapped to the wing of a biplane as it took flight at the Damyns Hall aerodrome in Essex. I joined a team with five other women, Young Epilepsy director Vicki Kennedy, Monika Skrzypczak, Jane Moss, Sarah Nicholls and Rebecca Turnbull.
Together we raised more than £4,200, which went towards purchasing new equipment for the classrooms of the new specialist school at Young Epilepsy’s campus.
On the 14th July I had some of my photography put up outside the Renal Dialysis Unit and ward at the city hospital to help inspire individuals to stay strong, and to keep going. It is amazing to see my work up in the corridor.
And, on the 20th July I was nominated for a Justgiving award! The awards are a way of congratulating all of the ‘outstanding people, charities and teams’ who have done incredible things to raise money in the past year. I was nominated for my creativity and my commitment to Young Epilepsy. Although I didn’t win, I was shortlisted which was an award in itself for me.
In August I took my Epilepsy book down to Paediatrics at the city hospital, it was incredible to hand it over and I am still so proud.
On the 6th September I got into a relationship with Dan, who I love dearly. He has brought so much happiness into my life and has seen me through so much over the last couple of years. Since my health has become better (Minus the seizures!) we have grown closer and so much stronger.
On the 29th September I was nominated for Best in Show with my blog in the Health Activist awards. And again, although I didn’t win it was incredible to get that acknowledgment.
So in October, on the 10th to be precise, I moved into my own place. It is so much easier to get to work in the city now and I love it a lot! Other than that, not much happened in October other than turning 22!
On the 31st October my Nan and I travelled to Hatfield for an event happening on the 1st November…read ahead.
So, skipping to November, on the 1st I was a speaker at Eisai’s HHC event. I literally felt my heart pounding through my chest I was so terrified, but I did it. I shared my Epilepsy journey with a lot of people and it was a great experience. My Nan and I stayed in a really posh hotel too!! Eisai is a Japanese pharmaceutical company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, but they have an office in Hatfield. It has some 10,000 employees, among them about 1,500 in research. Also in November we celebrated Dan’s 21st birthday, the cake was fantastic!!
And here we have December. December has been hard for many reasons, but I am looking forward to what 2017 has to offer for me, my family, my friends and wonderful Dan. Dan and I have plans for 2017 and I cannot wait!!
On the 4th December I completed what turned out to be over a 6k run with my colleagues, we raised money for the Dialysis Unit. It was cold, but a lot of fun!
And, on the 5th-6th December I had a 24 hour EEG to capture my seizures, to help us find the next treatment to get them under control. I got the results back in the middle of December, which showed 147 seizures and seizure activity in 24 hours, so I have now been put on Lacosamide which will hopefully work.
On the 21st December Dan, his parents and I were going to go to London for the Winter Wonderland, but I fell ill and we knew it’d be a long journey, so we headed to Nottingham’s Wonderland instead and it was lovely!
It was nice this Christmas, being able to spend it with Dan and his family, as well as my family too. It’s shown how we all come together during the good and bad times. This year has been incredible, and I cannot wait for the New Year ahead!
Plans for 2017
A few things I’d like to do in 2017 are:
I’d like to visit: Edinburgh and head to Dublin to show Dan around.
I’m going to work harder at: Making time for exercise.
A project I’d like to finish: My second book!
A class I’d like to take: Zumba.
I’d like to spend more time doing: Photography
A food I want to eat more of: Raw veggies.
There you have it!
What are your resolutions for 2017? Comment below to share your experience in 2016 or plans for 2017.
25 yr old monthly columnist on Living Well with Epilepsy. Full time worker of NHS England.
Emily’s Perspective is a snapshot of what life is like living with Epilepsy. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy at the age of 10.
Based in UK.