Small Town Inertia : Simon : Living with Epilepsy

Not long back I wrote on duckrabbit that Jim Mortram’s Market Town project is one of ‘the great photo projects of our times‘.

I think that might have been an understatement. Mortram’s work is much more than a photo project. In his own words Market Town tells the stories of those “often overlooked and unseen by the people around them or seen and judged without the care for the stories that are there to be shared and rich bonds to be forged.”

I’ve invited Jim to publish his stories on duckrabbit, as well as blogging about anything else that takes his formidable eye. Over to you Jim, and a warm welcome.

“There are some people out there that are really stupid with all they say about Epileptics. I’ve had people put dog mess on my windows, banging on my windows and walls at night. I had my blinds down and I just took no notice … 

I keep on going. I keep on saying to myself I want to do everything I can and if something bad happens and I want to do it… I’ll keep on doing it. I keep on going.” Simon


Plans are so hard to make when you live in a constant state of fear, always at the mercy of a seizure when least expected.

The last weeks have brought a great positive change for Simon. The dosage of his medication has been altered and seizure rate has dropped dramatically. Freed from the fear of an attack his confidence is soaring.

“I’ve started going to the gym on a Sunday last week. I get bored staying at home just watching TV. So I thought I’d go to the gym and do something interesting and keep fit.

They know my Mum, Dad and sister so I’m alright there. I had to fill in a form and it said “Do you have epilepsy?.” so I said “Yes.” All I have to take in is my medication. After I gave it my first try they said “You’re doing ever so well, keep it up Simon.” I’m really hoping it’s going to help improve my Epilepsy, energy and my enjoyment.”

Simon making a coffee at home after his morning shift as a Carer for the elderly. A job he loves.

Relaxing watching a DVD.

“My fits have got much better. I am not having that many fits anymore. Mum and Dad reckon my medication is much better now. For me, I think its much better as it’s controlling me. I feel much happier and controlled because I can go out without thinking I’m going to have any more fits. When I get back I can relax, go to sleep and not worry that I am going to have any fits. I’ve not had any Paramedics out for quite a while.”

Simon listening back to a recorded interview.

“I went to the gym again. I went on the bicycle and was really enjoying myself on that. I did 15 minutes then I went on the treadmill to do another 15 minutes.”

All smiles on the bicycle.

Simon beginning his 15 minutes on the treadmill.

“I can’t remember anything when the fit comes on. I can only remember a little about the afterwards. Like, if I get damaged and have a headache they are what tell me I’ve had a seizure.

When we began this project Simon and I talked about what would happen in the event of a seizure. Together we concluded that to make a story about life, living and dealing with epilepsy, we would not be reflecting the truth if the story did not encompass seizures and the reality of their impact upon Simon.

Despite that, due to his new medication dosage and the past weeks being seizure free neither of us expected one to take place so suddenly, so dramatically on this day of shooting.

The above two frames are just a split second apart.

Simon was upon the treadmill and just beginning his 15 minute walk. The time it took for the shutter to raise and fall he was down and down hard. Within the blink of an eye Simon was taken from enjoying his walk, enjoying the activity, enjoying his day. There were no signs nor signal of any impending seizure nor initially any sign of injury.

There are numerous types of epileptic seizure. Simon most commonly suffers from a Generalised seizure, in Simon’s case specifically Atonic seizures. (Also known as drop attacks or akinetic seizures.)

Generalised seizures
 involve epileptic activity in both hemispheres (halves) of the brain. During an Atonic seizure your body usually falls forward and the dangers of banging your head on furniture or other hard objects are greatly heightened as a result.

“When I came round I thought I’d had a seizure in Town but when I asked someone they said I was in the gym. I thought I was up town laying on the pavement.”

A spilt second later he regained consciousness and the extent of the injury he had sustained whilst falling became apparent. He’d suffered a deep laceration to his forehead and his cheekbone. Both were swelling up and bleeding profusely.

“I don’t know when a fit is coming on and I cut my head and the side of my face. They stopped the treadmill and I was ever so damaged. They put plasters and sorted me all out.”

At home the morning after.

“My Mum and Dad brought me home from the gym. They were ever so worried. They keep phoning up to see if I am alright. They will keep coming round to see how my face is. Today it is ever so sore and I couldn’t go into work today. Last night in bed it was ever so sore. When I tried to turn over on my side in bed I couldn’t as it was so sore.

I just thought I’ll try to keep fit. Do something that I’ve never done before. I’m going to keep going back. See what it’s like. I’ll go on the treadmill again. It hasn’t put me off going on the treadmill.”

“There are some people out there that are really stupid with all they say about Epileptics. I’ve had people put dog mess on my windows, banging on my windows and walls at night. I had my blinds down and I just took no notice. If it happens again I’ll call 101 (Non emergency Police). I think the people that do that sort of thing are really stupid, trying to frighten people to get them nervous and get them worried so they have another fit.

I keep on going. I keep on saying to myself I want to do everything I can and if something bad happens and I want to do it… I’ll keep on doing it. I keep on going.”

If you require any further information regarding epilepsy ‘Epilepsy Action‘ is a great online resource.

Advice on how you should help if you’re witness to a person having an epileptic seizure.

Discussion (10 Comments)

  1. Welcome Jim. Thank you for this, and thank you also to Simon for allowing us this glimpse into his life.

  2. David White says:

    Welcome, welcome, welcome. I can’t say it enough. Rarely does someone shout so quietly. Thankyou.

  3. Jim Mortram says:

    John, David thank you so much. To the Duck Rabbit staff and readers the honour is all mine to share these stories here. Peace. Jim.

  4. Justin Leighton says:

    shows the DR is nothing more than the sum of its contributors … looking forward to seeing more of Jim’s Johns and Davids words images thoughts and motivations … thank you seems a bit weak but thank you

  5. Jim Mortram says:

    Thank you Justin. I echo exactly what Duckrabbit say.

  6. Peter says:

    Welcome to the blog Jim. Wonderful work.

  7. Jim Mortram says:

    Thank you Peter. Very happy to be here.

  8. Catherine says:

    An excellent illustration of how much better a project becomes when the photographer and the subject have equal collaboration. Wishing Simon luck and more opportunites to get fit and share his life, and looking forward to hearing more from Jim.

  9. Jim Mortram says:

    Thank you so much Catherine. 48 hours after the most recent fall Simon had another seizure this time at work. Thankfully he did not open any of his wounds up. He say’s a huge thank you for all the kind words. He’s in good spirits.

    I more than agree RE collaboration. Stolen moments are one thing, shared moments something completely different. That act of sharing always begins with a person being brave enough to offer their story up to be documented. That’s the seed for any collaboration and all photographers owe a vast debt to the people they work with when making close documentary series.

    I’d say this debt manifests itself by never viewing the people we work together with as subjects, always as people. Once a person becomes merely a subject I feel a fundamental fracturing of closeness happens and within that void pretension runs wild.

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