Living as a university student with epilepsy

There are many different types of epilepsy and each case can create different problems for the men that have it.  But does it really control a person’s life? 

The answer is both yes and no according to mature student James Barter, but he believes that guys shouldn’t be put off going to university just because they have epilepsy.

James, 26, is a third year student studying Biomedical Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University.  I interviewed him to find out how having epilepsy has had an impact on his life and, in particular, his decision to go to university.

It wasn’t until the age of seven that James discovered his condition and with no history of epilepsy in his family it shows that it isn’t something that is always inherited.

He was diagnosed with Temporal Lobe epilepsy after having a seizure at home.  The Temporal Lobes are located at each side of the brain and are approximately level with the ears.  Seizures of the Temporal Lobes can happen to people of any age and are sometimes caused by injury or trauma to the head, although often there are no explanations of the cause. (M.D. Holmes 2006)  This is true in James’ case.

He hasn’t had a seizure now in nine years thanks to controlled medication and on average he only suffered one seizure a year between the ages of seven and 17.  In James’ case he has ‘simple partial seizures’ meaning he is conscious and can tell people what is happening;

A major aspect of James’ life which has been affected are his aspirations for his future career.  He always wanted to be a pilot in the armed forces, something which sadly is not possible now because of his epilepsy;

A permanent feature of James’ life now is the use of, in his words, “A LOT of medication.”  He has to take six tablets every day and uses a combination of different medicines which can be a concoction with side effects.  Drowsiness, double-vision, sickness and a loss of balance can be common for James so he has to be careful when planning social activities, especially trips to pubs and clubs.

The tablets James has to take every day.

That doesn’t mean a social life is off the agenda though.  In his first and second year at university he was the social secretary for the University sailing team, organizing nights out and sailing events for its members until his final year work load and placements meant he had to pass on his role to someone else.

He still finds time to blow off steam on a Saturday night though and insists epileptics like him can enjoy going out to bars and clubs as long as they are careful and plan taking their medication around activities.  He also suggests talking to friends about the condition so that they know what to do should you have a seizure.

James understands there are many forms epilepsy and acknowledges that some people suffer many more dangerous seizures than he has experienced but he insists that guys shouldn’t be put off going to university because of their condition, “The university provides support, and they can provide care.  You also get longer to complete exams as well.” 

“Going to university is the best decision I’ve ever made, I have made great friends and now I have better career prospects.”

written by Michael Clarkson

Follow me @M_Clarkson

For more information on epilepsy you may want to visit:-


M.D. HOLMES, Gregory. L (2006). Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. [online]. Last accessed 20 February 2012 at:   HYPERLINK “”

One thought on “Living as a university student with epilepsy

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