Hayley Grant

Hayley Grant

South Surrey teen raises epilepsy awareness

South Surrey's Hayley Grant will speak to her Earl Marriott Secondary peers about epilepsy next month, to mark Purple Day.

This March will mark the third year that South Surrey resident Hayley Grant has spoken publicly about living with epilepsy as part of the Canada-wide awareness campaign known as Purple Day.

A few things have changed since last year.

Grant is now 13 and she has moved on from Hall’s Prairie Elementary to Earl Marriott Secondary.

And she recently began taking an anti-seizure medication to reduce the severity of her attacks.

Asked if she has noticed a difference, Grant politely points out she can’t, really, because the seizures render her unconscious.

But she is falling down less, she notes.

Purple Day was launched in 2008 by a nine-year-old Nova Scotia girl with epilepsy named Cassidy Megan.

On March 26, people are asked to wear purple as a sign of support. Because that date falls during Spring Break, Grant will be speaking at her new school on March 15.

“I would like to tell you a little bit about myself,” she will say, then go on to describe what epilepsy is like.

“It looks like I’ve fallen asleep, but my eyes are open,” is how she puts it.

Her mother, Jaqueline Sephton, is proud that her child is speaking out.

“It’s incredibly brave of her,” Sephton says.

“In a way, she’s outed herself (as a person with epilepsy).”

Mother and daughter say it’s important for other children with the same condition to know they aren’t alone; that in fact, with one in 100 people suffering at least one seizure in their lifetime, it’s fairly common.

“Kids can feel awfully alone,” Sephton says, as Grant nods agreement.

In her speech, Grant tackles some of the myths about epilepsy, aiming to prevent people from making potentially life-threatening mistakes such as putting something in a person’s mouth when they have a seizure.

It’s far better, she says, to put something soft under the person’s head and get them on their side.

Grant had her first seizure when she was 18 months old, at a family Christmas dinner.

Sephton remembers a moment of terror when her daughter suddenly went limp in her arms.

Then, the youngster came to, tired and disoriented, but otherwise unharmed.

Grant has had many more seizures in the years since then, moments where she suddenly loses consciousness, then wakes up a few minutes later, exhausted.

She also feels dizzy a lot, as though she just got off of a rotating ride at a playground.

Her medical condition has not been enough to keep Grant 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.

For more information about epilepsy and Purple Day, visit The Centre for Epilepsy at www.epilepsy.cc or http://www.purpleday.org