Student Sol Dean was predicted A*s for his GCSEs until he was struck down with epilepsy last year and ended up in a fight for his life.
He wasn’t expected to take any exams this summer but the brave 15-year-old has battled back and sat six GCSEs despite the risk that if he had a fit before any exam, his memory would be wiped out.
I was a fit lad and did a lot of sport and suddenly I couldn’t do anything. I can’t even go running as it takes too much out of meSol Dean
Shuttleworth College student Sol admitted it’s been a tough time for him and his family and wants to raise awareness of epilepsy, something he hadn’t even thought about until he was struck down last year.
“We had no history of it in the family and, to be honest, I had no idea what it was,” said Sol.
Epilepsy suffers have abnormal electrical activity in their brains which can cause seizures and Sol knows stress, anxiety or anger could worsen the condition.
He struggles with his memory and can’t piece together the last 18 months of his life.
“I had a couple of fits from around March last year where I would wake up on the floor but didn’t really think much of it. Then, around May last year, I blacked out in the shower and ended up on the floor. The shower door had landed on me and dislocated my shoulder.
“I rang my mum and went to Blackburn Royal but no one was quite sure what had happened to me.”
He returned home with parents Vicky Deane and Mark Dean near Mama Mia’s restaurant in Padiham and had another seizure in June.
His mum Vicky said: “I could hear him calling me from upstairs and all his words were slurred. I thought he was drunk to be honest and I was mad.
“I sat and watched him all night and he got up the next day and all was fine. Then he went into the bathroom, I heard an almighty crash and found him having a seizure.
“He was in hospital for a week in an induced coma to stop any brain damage and it was touch and go. It was so frightening.”
Sol can’t remember much except waking up in hospital and said: “When I was told it was epilepsy it was a smack in the face and I didn’t expect it.
“I was a fit lad and did a lot of sport and suddenly I couldn’t do anything. I can’t even go running as it takes too much out of me.
“Also, because I damaged my shoulder in my original fall, it is a weak spot and I have dislocated it 40 times since.
“I don’t know anything about the seizures but it was awful for my mum and dad as they had to watch me shaking on the floor and foaming at the mouth. It hurt me but I think it hurts them more.”
Thankfully, but only after being put on 12 tablets a day, he hasn’t had a major seizure since January but, if he had had one before his exams, he wouldn’t have been able to remember what he revised.
“It was a worry but I just had to carry on,” said Sol. “At Christmas they told me I wouldn’t sit any GCSEs but I sat six which I am really proud of. I sat in a room on my own with an invigilator and a medically trained person to try to take the pressure off and I think it worked.
“Now I want to take a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at Burnley College.”
And he wants to say a big thank you to the teachers at Shuttleworth College who received medical training from epilepsy specialists and his friend Dominic Hall, who he has been mates with since Year Seven, who also learned how to deal with it if Sol does have a seizure.
“Dom attended the epilepsy lessons and has trained as a first aider so he can help me if I have a fit. It’s like a pen with liquid in it that has to be put into my gum which will stop the seizure but, if it goes on longer than three minutes, it could kill me.
“The teachers have all been superb, they couldn’t have helped me more, as they had to adjust my timetable as I could only study for limited hours due to tiredness and someone medically trained has to be with me all the time and they gave up a lot of their time to do that.”
Vicky, who has had advice and support from a Facebook site called the Purple Family which is for epilepsy sufferers, has given up work as an auctioneer to be a full-time carer for Sol.
“He was so determined to sit his exams and I am really proud of him.
“I presented the teachers at Shuttleworth with a trophy for all their help - we couldn’t praise them enough, they have been amazing.
“Sol has never moaned, he has dealt with the situation and got on with it but we do want to raise awareness as it could happen to anyone.”