Crippled By Emotion

Brave teenager Vicki Wood is felled by terrifying seizures whenever she feels sad, angry, scared – or HAPPY.

Her legs buckle and she crashes to the ground up to a dozen times a day.

And the 18-year-old now tries to be as boring as possible in a desperate bid to stop the fits blighting her young life.

Vicki has isolated cataplexy, an incredibly rare illness sparked by emotions. Even watching her favourite TV comedy The Vicar Of Dibley will trigger an attack.

So while other girls her age are out clubbing, Vicki is more likely to be at home playing her keyboard – the only thing not to cause a seizure.

Vicki said: “There are times I’ve been suicidal, cried in my bed and refused to come out of my room.

“But it doesn’t help because the upset causes more seizures.

“If something makes me laugh or jump with fright, my legs give way and leave me falling sideways, backwards or forwards. My limbs are covered in bruises and I’m lucky I haven’t had a serious injury.”

Vicki is one of a handful of people across the globe stricken by the condition.

Baffled doctors have no idea what causes it – and there is no surefire cure.

Vicki was 16 when the first attack hit and she was rushed to hospital. She said: “I was laughing at a DVD and as I got up I collapsed. It was really scary.”

Heart and blood tests were negative and Vicki was sent home to mum Ann, 43, builder dad Mick, 51, and sister Lauren, 20, in St Leonards, East Sussex. But soon she started having attacks at school. Vicki recalled: “The first time it happened, people laughed.

“No one understood how upsetting it was and the stress made it worse.”

She scraped through her GCSEs but didn’t get the right grades for her dream job – nursing.

She said: “I was so upset. I thought my life was over.” Vicki got a job in a hair salon. But she said: “One day I collapsed and the manager went mad and fired me in front of everyone. It was so embarrassing.” The same happened when she tried her hand as a supermarket checkout girl.

So she signed up for a college class in sign language – where she met best pal Sarah Fielder, 19. She said: “Sarah gave me my confidence back and I started realising the condition didn’t need to be the end of my life.”

Vicki’s disorder was finally diagnosed at Guy’s Hospital in London. She said: “It was such a relief – everything suddenly started making sense.

“My emotions trigger the attacks but I know which situations to avoid.”

Staff at Guy’s plan to help her with the drug sodium oxibate – but fear it may take two years to persuade the cash-strapped NHS to sanction the £9,000 annual cost of the treatment.

Meanwhile, Vicki – who hopes to give key-boarlessons – is learning to live with her illness.

And she is preparing for her next hurdle as sister Lauren’s bridesmaid this summer.

She said: “I’m scared I will collapse walking up the aisle but my mother jokes I can sit on the dress’s train and Lauren can drag me.”

Mum Ann said: “It’s been tough – it’s like looking after a six-year-old again.

“But we pray she will now get the chance to lead a normal life again.”

Vicki’s plight

Isolated cataplexy is so rare it affects only ahandful of people around the world.

It struck out of the bluewhen Vicki was just 16and makes her collapseup to 12 times a day.

There is no guaranteed cure – but a £9,000-a-year drug may help.

Copyright 2009