Lisa Gillinder and the epilepsy team at Brisbane's Mater Hospital are scaling new heights to help Make March Purple.

Purple Day is a global initiative dedicated to raising epilepsy awareness, and Dr Gillinder's team is climbing Brisbane Story Bridge next Friday, March 26, to raise money for epilepsy support.

“We are all really excited about it,’” Dr Gillinder said. “We will reach the top of the bridge at sunset, just as it is being lit purple for Epilepsy.”

Two researchers from the Queensland Brain institute are joining seven members of the Mater team on the climb in support of Epilepsy Queensland. “They do a lot of work with patients in the community and provide a lot of support to improve the lives of people living with epilepsy.”

Dr Gillinder leads the Mater epilepsy research program and among other things specialises in stereo-electroencephalography and the surgical management of epilepsy.

She is now a fellow of the Mater Research Institute and Queensland Brain institute, and her work was recently recognised by her receipt of the ASMR Clinician Researcher Award and the Women in Technology Rising Star Award.

Epilepsy is a disease of the brain characterised by the tendency to have seizures. It can affect everyone regardless of age, gender or race, although it's more likely to be diagnosed in childhood or senior years.

“There are many different causes including metabolic, genetic and structural changes in the brain, typically related to benign or congenital lesions.  Another emerging area is autoimmune epilepsy which we are researching at Mater,” Dr Gillinder says.

Epilepsy, she says, is often misunderstood: “It's often perceived to be temporary and many people assume that between seizures patients are perfectly normal, that they can just go about their normal business.

“People don't realise epilepsy has a lot of other co-morbidities - it can cause mood problems, anxiety, cognitive problems, memory deficits sometimes even language problems and patients can be constantly affected by this even between their seizures.”

An estimated 800,000 Australians will develop epilepsy during their lifetime, but it is treatable and no barrier to high achievement.

Notable sufferers have included Socrates, Beethoven, Tolstoy and Charles Dickens. In recent times they have also included Aussie actor Hugo Weaving; singers Neil Young and Susan Boyle; and, being a proud Queenslander, Dr Gillinder is keen to highlight the state’s rugby league legend, “King” Wally Lewis.

Dr Gillinder says that in most cases epilepsy is very treatable.

“Two out of three patients become free of seizures with medication alone,” she says. “And if after they have tried two or three different medications without success, we can offer other therapies.”


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