Laith first started having seizures when he was about six-years-old. He would see a blinking bright light for a few seconds or minutes and then his eyesight would return to normal.
By his late teens, he had different types of seizures, mostly absence seizures which are very brief and, for Laith, on average lasted around 9 seconds each.
Laith is one of the nearly 10,000 people in the Ottawa region who are living with epilepsy and he continues to experience frequent absence seizures to this day.
The most striking feature of an absence seizure is a blank or vacant look that could be misinterpreted as a brief episode of daydreaming. The blank look may be the only outward sign, although some people have other features that could include eye movements, blinking or automatic behaviours.
Laith has never been seizure free. In fact, his seizures have become worse and more frequent with time.
“I have tried lots of medications, so many different medications but nothing has worked,” said Laith.
“Doctors just keep trying different combinations and dosages of medications, hoping they’ll land on the right one. Sometimes it works, things are controlled for a while, but then it relapses.”
This past summer, Laith had an appointment with a doctor who referred to this search for the right combination of medication, as a “guessing game”. People with epilepsy know all too well how frustrating this process can be.
Laith doesn’t talk about his epilepsy a lot unless the topic comes up, often when somebody asks him why he doesn’t drive.
“Many people don’t know what epilepsy is or just know it by the name, so I have to explain it and I would explain what to do in case anything happens,” said Laith.
“Reactions are varied – some feel sorry, others take it normally and some ask for details either out of interest or to be more aware in case I have an event.”
Like many people with active seizures, Laith says not being able to drive is one of the biggest barriers that epilepsy places on him in everyday life.
Laith also has concerns about how medications impact his memory which can affect his work, productivity, and personal life.
“I’m not an efficient worker, sometimes I repeat tasks even though I started them before but never completed them. A lot of times, I don’t remember special events. For example, people’s wedding parties that friends talk about,” explained Laith.
Laith discovered Epilepsy Ottawa through Epilepsy Toronto when he was getting some medical tests at Toronto Western Hospital.
“Epilepsy Ottawa is an excellent, valuable group that brings awareness to the community,” said Laith.
“To me, Epilepsy Ottawa means care, awareness and safety. It is a place where someone with epilepsy can become more active and get involved in the life of the epilepsy community.”