In 2020, Millie, 6, was at her school athletics day when she became distressed and unable to speak. The Year One student was crying and moving her arms around before she collapsed unconscious to the ground. Assuming she fainted, a teacher placed her on her back with her legs elevated until the triple 0 operator instructed the teacher to move Millie into the recovery position.
After receiving the terrible phone call that their daughter had collapsed, Katie and Steve accompanied Millie to the emergency department. Millie underwent testing, as Katie recalled a similar incident that occurred 18 months earlier where Millie “had been confused, dazed in class and fallen over”.
A Difficult Path to Navigate
“We left the ER with a very tired Millie and a pamphlet called “Your first seizure’” What followed was challenging for Millie and her family, who suddenly needed to advocate for their daughter to continue her education at school. Katie explains, “it has been a disappointing and difficult path to navigate with Millie’s school.”
It transpires that Millie had in fact, had multiple seizures in her early years of schooling which unfortunately had gone unrecognised. “At a time when we needed support, our school was out of their depth on all thing’s epilepsy. We were left feeling isolated and an inconvenience.”
A Traumatic Experience
With the help of Education and Disability advocates, Epilepsy Queensland, the state school health nurse and Millie’s extended care team, her family worked with the school on ways to include and support her at school, but the experience has left the Whapham family traumatised.
Initially, the family feared their little girl would be unsafe at school and drop-offs became a panic-inducing event. Millie’s brother Harry, just nine years old when he witnessed Millie’s seizure, has subsequently experienced anxiety, along with the weight of added responsibility to check on Millie throughout the school day.
Family Urge Australians to Get Seizure Smart!
Now, the Whapham family are urging all Australians and in particular, schools and educators, to Get Seizure Smart. Their hope is that through education, no family will live in fear that their child’s safety will be compromised.
“If Millie’s seizures at school had been managed differently and staff had even a basic understanding of what a seizure looked like and how to assist, the result would have changed our lives in a positive way – instead we’ve been left crippled by fear and distrust,” says Katie.
“It should be a no-brainer that seizure training is incorporated into standard first aid training across Australia.”
Katie’s message is clear:
“Just get it. Learn first aid and how to be seizure smart. Your actions will minimise the trauma to an individual and their family.”
Thank you to Millie and the Whapham family for #bravely sharing their experiences and the Get Seizure Smart message.