Confronting epilepsy aspersions head-on

A young woman living with the effects of epilepsy is hoping to raise public understanding of the condition, having previously been accused of being drunk or on drugs following a seizure.

Deminique Malyon was diagnosed with the condition last autumn and has spoken about the debilitating effects.

After suffering a seizure, the 19-year-old is often unable to walk straight, focus her gaze or even communicate, leading some to assume that she is simply intoxicated.

Even her parents believed she might be under the influence the first time that the teenager had a fit.

“My dad thought I had taken drugs,” Deminique told the news site Mirror Online.

“And my mother even called my boss and my boyfriend – as we were all out the night before – to ask if I was drinking excessively or taking any drugs.

“She said I acted as if I was drunk and, at the time, she even told me off for being silly and asked me to stop joking around.”

On a separate occasion, Deminique had a less than friendly exchange with a taxi driver, who had mistaken her post-seizure hiccups for drunkenness and warned that she would have to pay the cleaning costs if she threw up in the back of his vehicle.

Mum Diane said she was worried about the possible risks to her daughter.

“While Deminique is having her full convulsions, it is obvious what is happening and most people will know what is happening,” she said.

“But my biggest fear is if she is alone and has a seizure… afterwards, she is so disorientated and has the symptoms of someone on drugs or intoxicated. She is very vulnerable and someone could take advantage of her.”

Clare Pelham, from the Epilepsy Society, said that the teenager’s story was sadly all too common.

“People with epilepsy tell us they are often unfairly accused of being drunk as they recover from a seizure,” she said.

“And young people with the condition feel they are at increased risk of being wrongly accused, as slurred speech, confusion and the inability to walk properly after a seizure, lead people to think they have been binge drinking or taking drugs.”