Footballer Matt Crooks remains positive in spite of epilepsy diagnosis
Accrington Stanley defender and midfielder, Matt Crooks, has not let his epilepsy stand in the way of his life and dreams.
Matt Crooks was a healthy 18-year-old enjoying life when he was diagnosed with epilepsy:
"I was 18, went on a night out with friends. The following morning was normal for the morning after a night out. My friends told me I had a seizure lying on my bed. I remember being in and out of it in the ambulance.
"I was a bit confused. I didn't take it that seriously. I wasn't upset by the seizure- I had to carry on as best I could. I was shocked more than anything. I thought that because I was 18, there was nothing wrong with me."
Matt had an EEG and an ECG and was diagnosed with generalised epilepsy with tonic clonic seizures. He was playing football for Huddersfield at the time of his diagnosis, but it did not dent his career.
"It was the first time the physios had ever dealt with epilepsy. It was a new situation for everyone at Huddersfield but they put me with the right people"
Matt was prescribed levetiracetam by his neurologist, and found it to work for him with no side effects.
"I'm now 14 months seizure free and I have my driving theory test next week. Hopefully if I pass it I'll be able to take my practical test too."
The 22 year old insists epilepsy has not had a dramatic effect on his life: "I'm just going about my normal life. There are no restrictions for football - I play as normal. The medical team aren't fussed as long as I have my prescription with me and I can still play football. They've identified stress, tiredness and alcohol as my triggers so I just have to have the right amount of sleep and I've cut down on alcohol but that's good for me anyway."
Matt enjoys the support he gets from friends and family:
"My friends have all been fine about my diagnosis. I went on holiday with them to Mallorca and America last year. They make sure I take my tablets and they're often more worried about it than I am."
One friend in particular has been a great source of comfort for Matt. He describes Portsmouth winger Kal Naismith as a "stand-out guy". Kal made sure Matt recovered after he had a seizure without having told anyone he had epilepsy. The two ended up living together between 2014 and 2015.
Kal had already had very personal experience of epilepsy. Tragically, he lost his girlfriend Ashley to SUDEP, sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. He now supports Matt through his diagnosis and has had a profound impact on how he sees his treatment:
"Talking to Kal made me more aware of the seriousness of epilepsy. I'm now more sensible with my medication. The problem before was that I was skipping doses but Kal reinforced the importance of not missing any ever."
Crooks is positive about his future living with epilepsy:
"This year I hope to remain seizure free. I hope to be promoted at Accrington before my move to Glasgow in summer to play for Rangers."
He takes the stresses of life in his stride: " I don't consider myself a stressed person. I take it as it comes, I'll sort things out for my move in advance."
When asked what he would say to someone just diagnosed with epilepsy, Crooks is quick to encourage positive thinking:
Obviously it's different for everyone. Stay positive and remember that just because you have epilepsy, don't think you can't follow your dreams."