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Home » Latest News » Law firm backs colleague to raise funds for Epilepsy Research UK

Law firm backs colleague to raise funds for Epilepsy Research UK

Law firm backs colleague to raise funds for Epilepsy Research UK
“ There is very little funding for research and most of it is raised through charitable donations ”

Staff at a leading law firm are to embark on a summer of fund-raising in support of a colleague who lost her son to epilepsy.

Rachel Abba’s colleagues at Bridge McFarland will take in such landmarks as Lincoln Castle and Grimsby Dock Tower as they run, cycle, skydive and abseil to raise money in the memory of her son Robert.

The money will go to help Epilepsy Research UK find out more about epilepsy and SUDEP – Sudden Unexpected (Unexplained) Death in Epilepsy. Around 87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy each day and SUDEP claims around 600 lives every year.

Robert, a computer science student, died on 7 January, at home in Scartho, Grimsby, as his family were planning to take him back to De Montfort University in Leicester after the Christmas and New Year break.

Devastation at losing her only child has turned into determination for Rachel, a clinical negligence lawyer at Bridge McFarland’s office in Louth.

She said: “We don’t want this to be the end. We are in touch with the research team at University College London and with Epilepsy Research UK, who work to try and transform the lives of people living with epilepsy for the better by researching the underlying mechanisms epilepsy and SUDEP with a view to finding treatments and, hopefully, eventually a cure for some of the people affected.

“I started looking into it and I realised that there is very little funding for research and most of it is raised through charitable donations. There’s really so little money out there for research and that’s scary because this does kill and it is indiscriminate.”

Robert had his first fit in November 2014. A second followed on Christmas Eve that year and he was diagnosed with epilepsy in the following January.

Rachel said: “Sometimes people are born with it. Sometimes it’s due to a head injury or some form of trauma that affects the brain, but Robert had none of those. He sat down for a lecture at university one day and the next thing he was on the floor and the ambulance and paramedics were there.

“He stopped drinking for three months. He took medication even though he didn’t like it – it affected his memory and moods but he knew the consequences of not taking it could be unthinkable.”

With the help of the medication, Robert got on with his life, continuing his studies, taking a year out to work with School Pod, a company in Leicester, and then returning to complete the final year of his course.

A review of Robert’s condition in November 2016 was optimistic as he had not suffered any fits since March 2016, but within two months he was dead.

Rachel said: “Rob had five fits. Three were in his sleep and that is a risk factor along with his age. His general state of fitness and health was good. He walked everywhere and he had just gone back to running, but he was in a higher risk group.

“There’s nothing in his history at all unless you go back to my paternal grandmother, who had epilepsy. All they know is SUDEP is linked to an epileptic fit but they don’t know why it causes death.”

Fund-raising was started by one of Robert’s best friends, Jonathan Brooke, who set up a JustGiving page in his memory. To date that has raised just short of £1,200. Further fund-raising took place at Robert’s wake at Scartho Bowling Club, where he was a popular member, and has continued since then.

Support for Robert’s family has continued, with fellow students visiting on the weekend of 26 May, which would have been Robert’s 23rd birthday. Next month Rachel will attend the De Montfort University graduation ceremony for her son.

She said: “Bridge McFarland have supported me a lot over the years and certainly since Rob died. They have backed me constantly and my colleagues have selected Epilepsy Research UK as their charity of the year in the Grimsby and Louth offices. I am so grateful that they are helping to raise money – and raise awareness of this condition.”

Rachel’s colleagues have set a target of £5,000. Some will tackle the 100-mile Castle to Coast to Castle charity cycle ride on Thursday 29 June. Others will abseil down the 200-foot Grimsby Dock Tower. A skydive will take place in September and less physically strenuous activities will include a fund-raising quiz.

A memorial page has been set up for Robert at https://www.epilepsyresearch.org.uk/memorial-funds/rob-abba/