Hayley Sephton had her first seizure when she was a year-and-a-half old, at a family Christmas dinner.
Her mother, Jaqueline, vividly remembers her daughter suddenly going limp in her arms and the fear that her child might be dying.
After a short time, Hayley came to, tired and disoriented, but otherwise unharmed.
She was diagnosed with a form of epilepsy, a disorder caused by abnormal electrical activity in a person’s brain.
The 12-year-old South Surrey girl has had 13 more seizures in the years since then, moments where she suddenly loses consciousness, then wakes up a few minutes later, exhausted.
“It’s kind of terrifying,” Hayley says.
She also feels dizzy a lot, as though she just got off a rotating ride at a playground.
“It’s hard to feel different from everyone else,” Hayley says.
She says it without self-pity, in a matter-of-fact tone.
Her medical condition has not been enough to keep Hayley from a career as a child actor and model, with credits that include television commercials for Toys R’ Us, Dannon Yogurt and Canadian Tire, to name a few.
When she is asked about her future, Hayley says she expects she will either be an actor or a florist.
She loves flowers, especially red roses.
She also likes purple lavender flowers, which are the international colour for epilepsy.
Hayley wants people to know more about epilepsy, so they don’t do silly things like putting something in a person’s mouth when they have a seizure.
Far better to put something soft under someone’s head and get them on their side, she points out.
“Even though people have epilepsy, they’re just like (anyone else),” Hayley says.
She will be delivering that message in person to her classmates at Hall’s Prairie Elementary on Thursday, March 29, as part of Purple Day, a public-awareness campaign that was launched in 2008 by a nine-year-old Nova Scotia girl with epilepsy named Cassidy Megan.
It is officially marked on March 26 by people wearing purple, but events go on all week.
Hayley is looking forward to telling her classmates about her life with epilepsy.
It is her second year of Purple Day-related activity at her school, and she is particularly looking forward to talking to the new students at the school, many of whom don’t know that Hayley has epilepsy.
For more information about Purple Day and epilepsy, visit www.epilepsy.cc