[Cache – #110]
Last week I wrote about authenticity. This week, I would like to tell you about the most authentic person I know: Global News reporter Mark McAllister.
Two years ago, Mark had a seizure while giving a news report – live, on the air. The affect of the seizure was to jumble Mark’s words into incoherence. The incident instantly went viral, reaching as far as New York City and the soulless Howard Stern, who thought it was absolutely hilarious and who featured it prominently on his daily parade of hate in the guise of humour. Apparently, Stern is still laughing: he featured it on his show as recently as a few weeks ago.
Mark didn’t quite get the joke. The joy and security that came with being in the place he most wanted to be – in front of the camera – had vanished, replaced by fear, confusion and uncertainty about his future as a professional, not to mention as a husband and father.
Soon thereafter, Mark was diagnosed with epilepsy, a chronic, neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures. A seizure occurs when abnormal electrical activity in the brain causes an involuntary change in the person’s awareness or behaviour. Epilepsy is a physical condition, not a mental illness. (Learn more about epilepsy at Epilepsy Toronto).
Yet there is deep shame and stigma imposed on those with the condition, by a public that understands epilepsy in almost mythical terms – hence the false notions that someone having a seizure can choke on their tongue (kind of difficult, considering your tongue happens to be connected to the inside of your mouth), or that witnesses to a seizure should grab the nearest spoon and stick it down the victim’s throat.
Two years on, Mark has gone public with his illness in a series of features on Global, deliberately making himself as vulnerable as he possibly can – in order to bring attention to epilepsy, to alleviate stigma and to convey that 1 in 100 people have the condition.
Thus, one of his key messages: someone you know has epilepsy. And many, Mark acknowledges, suffer far more than him – to the order of hundreds (yes, hundreds) of intense seizures each and every day.
If you want to be moved by bravery, watch some or all of Mark’s remarkable story on Inside Epilepsy, a special Global series. And if you want to support Mark and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians like him, take part in Purple Day, this Tuesday March 26th.
In case you missed it: my short interview on CBC Radio One about IKEA’s horse meat problem.
Also in case you missed it: My BNN interview re. Lance Armstrong’s brand (starts at the 3:30 mark, after the ad).