Holly's story

“I can tell you what it’s like to be a zombie.”

Holly Richardson’s epilepsy medication was making her sleep for 18 hours a day. A stay at the William Quarrier Scottish Epilepsy Centre in Glasgow helped her back to what Holly calls “my awesome life”.

Holly had her first epileptic seizure when she was 13 but had been four years seizure-free when aged 19 a tweak to her meds due to new birth control changed everything. She began to have more frequent seizures, until they were only 19 days apart. She was sleeping for up to 18 hours a day and had extreme reactions to noise or textures.

Holly was referred to the William Quarrier Scottish Epilepsy Centre (WQSEC). The centre is run by Quarriers in partnership with the NHS. It is a unique facility with space for 12 inpatients. Epilepsy diagnosis is challenging because clinicians rarely witness the events experienced by patients. But at the WQSEC, patients stay for a period of time to be observed using a state-of-the-art system which includes cameras and mobile EEG equipment.

Holly spent six weeks in the WQSEC, although the first four of those were spent almost entirely in bed.

Watch the WQSEC video.

“There’s lots of that time I don’t remember. They measured my brainwaves and there was almost no difference between when I was awake and when I was asleep.”

“I barely wanted my parents to see me like that, never mind anyone else, and when it was by best friend’s birthday and she wanted to come and visit, I made up an excuse to stop her coming. Instead, I tried to video a birthday message to her, but I couldn’t reach the end of the sentence.”

But there is one moment that stands out – the moment they figured out what was going on. “I can remember it so clearly,” says Holly.

“The Clinical Nurse Specialist came into my room and said, ‘you have toxic blood’.”

Holly was taken off her medication, a difficult process of detoxing, with constant nausea and vomiting. Holly remembers the rest of her time, as new medication was introduced under the watchful eye of the team.

“The cameras mean the team can watch you all the time. One day, my dad and I were sitting chatting and one of the nurses came in and asked if we could swap places so the cameras could pick up my face better.”

“It was nice to have my own room and I remember the cameras vividly.”

The final two weeks of her stay also provided a vital resource in her journey with epilepsy: friends.

“I met other patients, the most wonderful people to connect with. One person would be talking about their experiences, and we would all be saying ‘yes, I know what you’re talking about’. Now, we have a group chat we’re all on, and we’re there for each other.”

Holly has now been seizure free for one year.

Her experience has inspired the direction of her education, and Holly plans to do a degree in neuroscience. She says, “If I hadn’t had epilepsy, I wouldn’t have gone into science. I have no regrets.”

More about WQSEC.