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  

Just Posted

Sooke mom launches GoFundMe campaign to get medical treatment for son

Single mother has two children facing medical challenges

Christmas events set to begin across Greater Victoria

Lights, parades, gingerbread and more are coming to down until the new year

Uncertainty continues to surround body found in Central Saanich

BC Coroners Service say the man in his 20s is from Victoria. His death remains under investigation

Muppet-topped motorcyclists hit the road for sick kids

Helmet Heads Canada collecting donations during Victoria Christmas parades

CRD hosts Saanich open house on solid waste management

Open house is Nov. 21, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Saanich Greek Community Hall

VIDEO: UBC exchange students offered $1,000 to help with leaving Hong Kong

The university said 31 of its students were attending four universities in Hong Kong

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you plan on making any purchases on Black Friday?

We’ve all seen the images. Shoppers rioting outside of a store in… Continue reading

Federal laws at heart of West’s anger up for debate, as Liberals begin outreach

Vancouver mayor to Trudeau’s western critics: ‘Get over yourselves’

Snowboard pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter dies at 65

He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011

Teen developed ‘popcorn lung’ due to vaping: Ontario doctors

Boy went from being in perfect health to being on life support after just five months

B.C. judge tosses ‘N’ driver’s claim he was just using phone to decline his mom’s call

Distracted driving laws are more strict for Class 7, or Novice drivers, the judge noted

Woman calls 911 to say she was late for train, asks Ontario police for ‘emergency ride’

Peel Regional Police received more than 180,000 improper calls so far this year

It could take you 218 years to save up for a house in this B.C. neighbourhood

It would take 27 years in the most affordable city in the Lower Mainland

Most Read