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8th February 2021

EPILEPSY HAS NOT SLOWED ME DOWN

Rising cycling star Matthew Robertson worried his epilepsy would stop him from achieving his dream: to cycle for Great Britain. To mark International Epilepsy Day, Matthew shares his story, as he continues to show his colours as part of the GB paracycling team.

Matthew was 15 years old when he had his first seizure. “I remember it vividly,” Matthew tells This Is MedTech. “I had an incident in the school grounds and an ambulance was called. The teachers thought I had just fallen on the ice and banged my head. But I knew that wasn’t what happened.”

After he experienced two or three more seizures he was sent for an electroencephalogram (EEG), a recording of brain activity that helps doctors diagnose and monitor a number of conditions affecting the brain. “That was when I found out it was epilepsy,” Matthew recalls.

“I always thought it had something to do with my disability,” says Matthew; Matthew was born with hemiplegia, a neurological condition that manifests in a loss of function on his right side, and epilepsy is common in people with the condition. But his main concern was the impact it might have on his cycling.

“It was comforting to know that it wasn’t a specific issue wrong with me: I am not the only person with epilepsy,” Matthew says. “But I was worried it was going to stop me from doing well at what I wanted to do.”

At first, Matthew found it difficult to feel comfortable in training hard with the confidence that he wouldn’t have a seizure. But over time he has got better at managing his epilepsy. “A large part of that is that I have understood what the triggers are and where my level is when I have a seizure,” he explains. “The diagnosis told me what I can and can’t do; it made me feel like I could work around it.”

“Regular EEGs have shown where the issue comes from, what happens during a seizure and the causes,” Matthew continues. “Over the years I have also had my medication increased as a result of the scans. Without this knowledge I would definitely be having more seizures than I have now.”

After graduating through the development programme Matthew joined the GB cycling team in 2018. “Since then, I have been to three world championships: two track and one road,” Matthew notes. In these events he set a new world record in the C2 flying 200m and new personal best times in the kilo and individual pursuit. “I have also won many national jerseys on the track and the road and quite a few international class one events, winning silvers and golds,” he continues.

Hooked on cycling since watching Britain’s Sir Chris Hoy at the London 2012 Olympics, Matthew is delighted to be focused now on his ultimate goal of going to the Paralympics and winning gold. “Cycling has become everything to me,” he enthuses. “It is incredible to be amongst some great, great people who have won Olympic and Paralympic gold medals and call them your teammates.”