When 10-year-old Dominic Bennett has an epileptic seizure – he doesn’t go into convulsions or lose consciousness, he simply ‘zones out’.
Which is why it took some time for the Albion Park schoolboy to get diagnosed, and why his seizures have been mistaken as inattention or even bad behaviour.
During Epilepsy Awareness Month his parents Nakia and Ian are doing their bit to stop the stigma surrounding the condition after a horror 12 months – during which the wrong combination of medications caused Dominic to become a ‘’zombie’’.
‘’Dominic was diagnosed just prior to starting Year 1 with childhood absence epilepsy, where he has seizures that look like he’s just staring into space,’’ Mrs Bennett said.
‘’It’s scary as he has no idea it’s happening – if he’s walking he would continue to walk into a wall, or onto the road, without being aware of it.
‘’We’ve been through a number of medications with various side effects, but over the last year the combination of two medications really caused him to regress.
‘’The seizures stopped but he also lost his spark, he was lethargic, he couldn’t engage in learning and could barely tie his own shoelaces.’’
Working with specialists from Sydney children’s hospital, and Epilepsy Action Australia, the family has got back on track – and their son has his spark back.
‘’Epilepsy Action has provided online training for Dominic’s school; they’ve given us links to other families in similar situations and they’ve helped Dominic connect with other children so he doesn’t feel as isolated,’’ Mrs Bennett said.
‘’He’s off the medication that caused the lethargy and apathy and we’ve got our bright, bubbly little boy back. If he starts to get some seizures we will accept that – it’s about maintaining a good balance between seizure control and the side effects of medication.’’
More than 250,000 Australians are living with epilepsy, and Mrs Bennett urged others to seek help from advocacy groups.
During November, Epilepsy Action Australia is holding its E-Tea fundraising campaign and asking community members to host a morning or afternoon tea to help the cause.
‘’People with epilepsy can face enormous challenges in every aspect of their lives, from school to work to relationships, and even just the everyday activities of living,’’ CEO Carol Ireland said.
‘’We want people to have conversations about epilepsy, to share their own personal experiences – and what better way than by having a chat while sharing your favourite sweet treats with a pot of tea or coffee.’’
Visit www.epilepsy.org.au for details.