Meet Jake, an aspiring Curtin student in remission from epilepsy - who is an avid swimmer and Iron Man candidate in his spare time!
Jake, tell me about your life as a student.
"I'm currently studying at Curtin University, doing a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Economics and International Relations. I've also been trying to get a bit more involved in the wider Curtin community, through a Student Consultative Committee, and student mentoring, and in my spare time I'm training for an Iron Man down in Busselton."
What was your experience with epilepsy like?
"I was living with epilepsy for a while, until about four or five years old from memory, and have since been in remission.
I personally don't have many recollections of my epilepsy - I was a toddler and very young person when I stopped having the seizures. But according to my mum, I started having them right from birth. I was only a few hours old, and so they had to rush me to Sydney for hospitalisation. Throughout those years, I was having frequent seizures of about 5-6 per day and duration wise, could be... 5 minutes to as long as 10 minutes. Because of that they did MRIs and found a tumor, so I had to have an operation at the age of 2 or 3 in Sydney Children's Hospital.
The only specific recollection I have, from about 4 or 5, was being in the kitchen one day. I was feeling alright, and then suddenly I got quite starey-eyed and looked out this small window of our kitchen. I think there was a tiny bit of shaking, from memory, and a very mild headache, and then I don't remember anything else.
Because I was living in the country town of Bermagui, at the time I'd also have to go for checkups in Canberra. So there was a lot of driving for Mum to have to do. I had the first operation; things were pretty good, and then we moved back to Perth, just me, my Mum and my brother.
Then I started having a couple of seizures again and the tumour grew, so they did a second operation, which I remember relatively well myself. I think I was under for about 8 or so hours, and then had about 6 weeks or so in hospital. It took a couple of weeks to get used to walking and stuff again, and get back into my everyday life in Year 2 - which was not too difficult being a young guy.
I haven't had any seizures or anything since then, and I just have the occasional MRI to check that everything's going well. Aside from that, my epilepsy hasn't affected me personally very much since."
Tell me a bit more about what kind of physical activities you've undertaken recently.
"I've swum in a Rottnest Channel swim team of 4... [and] later in that year, 2014, swam the English Channel swim team of 6. I've also done a Rotto duo in February of 2016 or 2017, and then in May of last year I tried to do a half Iron Man. I only failed because I failed to buy a wetsuit to do the swim component, but otherwise finished relatively well with the cycling and running aspects - which are a 90 km ride and then a 21.1 km run."
What kind of message would you like the general public to understand about epilepsy?
"I'd say the obvious one is that people with epilepsy can still live life to the fullest and can still achieve quite a few things. It is also important for the general public to be supportive, for people who are going through it - especially if it's severe - and to offer help if they can in any way, and not to think of them as overly limited.
People with epilepsy can still achieve great things."
How do you think Purple Laces Month will help people living with epilepsy?
"Hopefully it raises awareness for epilepsy as a condition... and raise much-needed funds for Epilepsy WA to continue helping those living with the condition, and to possibly find a cure beyond cases like mine."