Tessa Hawkins, vice president of the Headway Victoria Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Centre, and her service dog Merlot sit on the steps of the B.C. Legislature to hear MLA Anne Kang read the proclamation for Purple Day, or epilepsy awareness day on March 26, 2019 (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Purple Day 2019: Victoria marks epilepsy awareness day

1 in 100 Canadians live with epilepsy, a neurological disorder with many symptoms

Tessa Hawkins and her service dog, Merlot, quietly sat in the public gallery at the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday morning. They were waiting to hear Anne Kang, MLA for Burnaby- Deer Lake, make the official proclamation for Purple Day, or epilepsy awareness day.

“I think it was a really big step forward to have some political acknowledgment, it’s been really difficult to get some awareness for epilepsy even though it’s really common,” said Hawkins, who is the vice president of the HeadWay Victoria Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Centre.

READ MORE: Purple Day marks long journey for Gorge resident

“It seems to be overlooked a lot because people are really hesitant to come out. They’re scared and they feel really alone and isolated, so to have something like this to acknowledge that you’re not alone, that there’s 50 million people just like you, I think it will encourage other people in B.C. and Victoria to start coming out and saying ‘its okay I have epilepsy, we have a community.’”

One in 100 Canadians have epilepsy, and every day 42 Canadians are diagnosed. The neurological disorder causes misfirings in the brain, which can trigger physical or mental manifestations of seizures. Some people may know the cause of these seizures; a head injury, a physical mass in the brain, or a genetic condition. However, for up to 60 per cent off people with epilepsy the cause is unknown.

Hawkins, who has lived with epilepsy for 30 years, said throughout her life she has faced a lot of stigma because of her condition.

“I had difficulty finding a job and making it through school. I didn’t realize how important it was to have a support group, because there wasn’t anything available when I was growing up in Chilliwack,” she said.

Hawkins now works as a policy analyst for the B.C. Accessibility Secretariat and hopes to use her personal experiences in her work.

ALSO READ:Living with epilepsy has mental, emotional impacts says Victoria man

“I think it’s really empowering because I’ve gone through a lot of negative stuff,” Hawkins said. “I can take all of my experiences, and take those steps forward to make things better for the next generation.”

This year HeadWay has expanded their services to farther north up the Island, and also established more support groups for a larger demographic of people, including First Nations people with epilepsy.

ALSO READ: Purple wave of flowers raises funds, epilepsy awareness in March

Hawkins said that recently the group has also become more vocal and attracted more media attention, a positive step in the right direction.

“What I’d like to see is a community where people aren’t afraid to tell others. I’ve had so many people ask me ‘when should I tell my boyfriend?’ and I want a community where it shouldn’t matter,” Hawkins said. “I want to end that stigma, that’s the ideal.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: Study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

Saanich Police ask for help locating missing high-risk youth

Robyn Coker-Steel has not been in contact with anyone from her home since Dec. 27

Victoria’s reconciliation dialogue on newcomers, Indigenous peoples takes place Monday

The third of six discussions on reconciliation will take place at the Crystal Garden

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Power lines cut as thieves strike Vancouver Island veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

Surrey’s ‘Pink Palace’ being used for Stephen King horror shoot

New web series based on King’s The Stand novel

‘It was just so fast’: B.C. teen recalls 150-metre fall down Oregon mountain

Surrey’s Gurbaz Singh broke his leg on Mount Hood on Dec. 30

Vancouver Island Pride weekend returns to Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Building on the success of last year’s family-friendly pride festival on Vancouver… Continue reading

Scarlett Point lighthouse keeper wins a million bucks playing the lottery

“I usually just get a quick pick, so I didn’t expect to win a big prize”

B.C. woman crowned the fastest female marathon runner in Canadian history

Malindi Elmore ran an incredible 2:24:50 at the Houston Marathon

Alberta bulldog breeder ordered to refund B.C. buyer over puppy’s behaviour

Tribunal ruled a verbal agreement to send a new dog superseded the written contract

Most Read