a teacher and a student talking about narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness

How My College Maths Teacher Saved My Life

Last updated: May 2021

When I attended sixth form college, I had to retake maths because I had passed all my general certificates of secondary education except that. I was heartbroken about this, but thankfully the teacher was friendly and supportive. I really appreciated that, as I was sleeping in her classes because I just couldn't control the sleepiness.

I was also studying English literature, sociology, law, and took piano lessons once a week. Wow, that was a lot. I was not coping, but I refused to drop out. I slept in all my classes but kept good grades, as long as I did not have to take an exam.

My teacher was convinced I had a condition

One day, the maths teacher gave me an article her husband had come across in a newspaper. He asked her to share it with the student she kept talking about who could not stay awake in her classes.

She then asked me to give it to my GP and said if this did not help me, she did not know what would. She was convinced that I had the same condition the lady in the article had.

Discovering narcolepsy

The article was about a teacher who had narcolepsy and had lost her job as she was sleeping all the time and would have loss of muscle control in front of the students when she was trying to discipline them.

By this point, I had been having the symptoms for 2 years. It was getting worse every day. My teachers begged my parents to get me help. They were doing all they could but we were getting nowhere with the doctors.

Initially dismissed by doctors

The doctors told my parents I had panic attacks and anemia, that it was in my head, and they sent me to see a shrink. They also attributed my rapid weight gain to being put on the pill because of seriously bad periods.

So when we went to the GP and gave her the article, she just said she would refer me to a sleep specialist.

Meeting with a sleep specialist

I went to the appointment with my mum. The sleep specialist asked me to explain what had been happening to me. I did.

He looked at us amazed, smiled, and said, "You have narcolepsy, and you have explained it like something out of the medical textbook. It is shocking that you have not been diagnosed sooner."

This was after only talking to him for 5 minutes. He sent me to have a sleep study to confirm his findings, and that is how the maths teacher saved my life, and how I was diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy.

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