Practice A Patient’s Journey


BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 01 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a799
  1. Sarah Lightbody, patient
  1. 1Eastcote, Middlesex
  1. radgies{at}
  • Accepted 21 April 2008

Sarah Lightbody was 17 when she was diagnosed with epilepsy. This is her account of her experience of the condition during the 14 years since then

I was just 17 when, during a stay in hospital after being taken ill at school, I was told casually that I had developed epilepsy. This was six months after I had gone to see my general practitioner because I was experiencing short periods of disorientation during which I lost all sense of time and my limbs twitched repetitively.

After diagnosis I was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital and allocated a neurologist who explained that I had partial epilepsy, which leads to secondary generalised seizures, also known as tonic-clonic seizures. As with many patients with this condition, the cause was unknown. He explained that the condition could usually be controlled with drugs, but that because of a sudden increase in the number of seizures I was experiencing I would have to stay in hospital for the time being.

Gaining control

The effect on my life and those immediately around me was enormous. I had been studying for my A levels at boarding school, learning to drive, and having all the usual teenage girl’s angst about spots, boys, and exams. All this changed. I returned home to be cared for by my parents and tutored for my exams at home when I was well enough; any ideas of driving or going out had to be shelved. During the next five years—despite more tests, numerous hospital visits and admissions, and a variety of drugs and the trying side effects that come with them—I managed to move out of home, go to college, and get a Higher National Diploma. Finally, as the seizures became controlled, I passed my driving test, embarked on my career, and moved into a flat by …

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