'We know each other’s epilepsy very well'

For Stephen and Denise Wottrich, epilepsy is a family affair. They have similar forms of epilepsy, and at its worst it can cause up to 10 seizures a day. They say learning to look after each other has made them stronger.

Stephen's epilepsy began in his early teens. He was involved in a serious car accident, but doctors still don't know whether this is connected to his epilepsy.

Despite having seizures regularly, Stephen haslived a normal life. He joined the army and was sent to Germany. But the next day he was sent back to the UK, where he joined the civil service.

"I had wonderful work mates," he says. "They'd look after me during a seizure, then I'd wake up and get back behind my desk again. Occasionally I'd have to have a day off but I'd much rather work than not."

Denise's epilepsy also started early. "One day when I was 10, I collapsed in school assembly," she says. "I was taken to a specialist who diagnosed epilepsy." Again, nobody knew why the epilepsy had started.

Denise, too, refused to let her condition hold her back. She worked in the Hampshire Constabulary and lived with her parents until she met Stephen.

"She had been moved into my room in an epilepsy unit and I hadn't been told,"says Stephen. "I came in to find her mum going through my underwear, which she assumed a former patient had left behind. But all I could see were Denise's beautiful eyes."

Neither Stephen nor Denise gets any warning signs, such as auras, before a fit. "But I can tell when Denise is going to have one, and she can tell when I'm going to have one," says Stephen. "I can sometimes stop her having one by rubbing the back of her neck and talking to her. We know each other's epilepsy very well."

When a seizure comes on, they make each other comfortable, ensuring that there's nothing around that could cause an injury.

So far, drug treatments haven't had much effect on the couple. Stephen says, "Ive tried everything going," as has Denise. But they don't let their epilepsy get them down.

"Im not saying I don't get depressed," says Denise. "Sometimes I think I must have done something very wrong to have this disease. But Stephen says that's not true. He says that we've been given epilepsy because we're strong enough to cope with it. He says we're special and I believe him."

The couple say that having epilepsy shouldn't mean you need toshut yourself away from the world.

"Most of the time, I've met with nothing but kindness when I've had a fit in public," says Denise. "Some people just stare but most of the time people want to help. I've met some wonderful people."

She adds, "It's important to talk to family and friends about your condition. Some people are afraid of epilepsy, but you can help educate them if you learn about it yourself. Be as independent as you can. Don't hide from your epilepsy. One in 200 people has it in some form, andit's nothing to be ashamed of."

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Jun 2016