‘I’m worried that when I come round from an epileptic fit I won’t remember having my daughter with me … I’d be afraid of someone taking her’ – Belfast Telegraph

For most young mums, popping into town to do some shopping and stopping off for tea or an ice-cream is all part and parcel of being a parent. But for Lisburn woman Dawn Cairns, a trip out with her four-year-old daughter Yasmin is only possible if she is accompanied by her husband John.

The 37-year-old suffers from temporal lobe and generalised epilepsy which, in a bad month, can see her suffer up to 15 seizures, which are preceded by just a five-to-ten-second warning.

After each one, she can feel very confused and disorientated, and it is this aspect which frightens her most about being out on her own with her young daughter.

“I’m worried that when I come round, I won’t remember having her with me. I’d be afraid of somebody taking her,” she said.

However, Dawn has been thrown a lifeline after being told by her consultant just last week that he is recommending her for a procedure known as vagus nerve stimulation.

This involves a stimulator or pulse generator being inserted under the skin and connected to the vagus nerve in the neck.

Dawn explains: “You have a wrist band with a magnet in it and when you feel a seizure coming on, you wave your wrist over the implant, and that sends signals to your brain and tells your body not to go into seizure.

“I was speaking to a girl I met on Facebook and she was having 80 fits a month, but since she got the implant, they are down to just two.”

The couple are aware that the procedure, generally reserved for patients whose seizures cannot be controlled with medication, works better for some people than for others, and Dawn has several more appointments before she will be given a date for her surgery. But they are hopeful and excited.

“It would make such a big difference to me,” she says.

Dawn has beaten the odds before. Having been told she was unable to conceive because of her epilepsy, she was delighted when she found out she was expecting her daughter.

“I was working in a shop as a volunteer when I got the call from my doctor telling me I was pregnant. I kept telling him I couldn’t be because we’d been told before it wasn’t possible.

“So I went out and bought four test kits and every one of them was positive! That was fantastic.”

Dawn and John, who have been together for 16 years and married for six, would ultimately like to have a brother or sister for Yasmin, but are waiting until Dawn undergoes the implant procedure before embarking on that next step.

Dawn was just two years old when she had her first epileptic fit – a grand mal seizure in which the body jerks violently.

Her mum Jean remembers it vividly. “It was horrendous. She was out in the back garden and her wee friend came in and said Dawn wouldn’t talk to her any more,” she says.

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