Teen with epilepsy Poster Maker To Raise Awareness of Invisible illnesses

Tom Bell, 18, of Ingleby Barwick, who helped make a poster to encourage people to think about invisible conditions. *With video. Tom shining a light on conditions.... Note: prefers Tom to Thomas

Tom has lived with epilepsy since he was born, and also lacks coordination in his movements due to dyspraxia.

He was just 11 years old when he first suffered a ‘stroke-like’ episode, which left him using a wheelchair for three weeks.

He said: ‘When I had the stroke, I remember trying to get out of bed one night for the toilet, but couldn’t find my balance and my speech was slurred. It was really scary.

‘I stayed in hospital for a couple of weeks and even now I still feel a weakness down my left side.’

As a result, Tom was referred to the RVI in Newcastle where he was eventually diagnosed with having hemiplegic migraine – a rare condition which causes temporary weakness on one side of the body.

In total Tom has had three stroke-like episodes, the last of which, two years ago, left Tom with a dangerous cerebral edema.

Meanwhile, the migraines would strike as often as twice a month.

Tom manages his symptoms with medication, but still struggles doing everyday tasks such as drawing and using a knife and fork.

‘Thankfully, I haven’t had a migraine in a while. My medication is controlling them quite well. I used to get them about twice a month,’ he

‘I had my first one aged 11 but it wasn’t until my second one that I was diagnosed.’

Sadly, as a result of his condition, Tom suffered bullying from his peers at school.

He said: ‘Kids used to flash lights in my eyes and say things like “I want to see you have a fit”,’ said Tom.

He feels this happened because others would not take him seriously, because his condition can’t be seen.

This is something he feels incredibly strongly about today, which is why he’s started working with Fixers.

Fixers works with young people aged 16-25 across the UK by providing them with professional resources to help them campaign on issues that matter to them.

The charity has helped more than 20,000 youngsters across the UK to have a voice in their community on issues such as cyberbullying, self-harm, suicide and transphobia.

Tom said: ‘Unfortunately, I don’t think people take me seriously because they can’t see there’s anything wrong. I wish people were more understanding.

‘My epilepsy was something I was quite sensitive about and it got to me.’

Tom’s poster includes a cartoon version of himself, with a number of boxes around the side offering information about epilepsy and dyspraxia.

The poster includes some further information about Tom and why he’s designed the poster, alongside the headings: ‘Not all conditions are visible.

‘If you could see my pain maybe you’d understand’.

Tom said: ‘I’m really happy with how the poster turned out. We wanted it to be informative and I think it gets the message across.

‘The idea is to encourage people to take these conditions seriously and not ridicule others who have them.

‘The plan is to take the campaign to local schools and drive home the message there.

‘I want to thank Fixers for helping me with this project because it gave me a chance to open up about an issue close to me.’