Queanbeyan turns purple for epilepsy awareness

Voice for her cause: Kerry McMurray convinced QPRC to get behind Purple Day and hopes to keep being a voice for others with epilepsy. Photo: Elliot Williams
Voice for her cause: Kerry McMurray convinced QPRC to get behind Purple Day and hopes to keep being a voice for others with epilepsy. Photo: Elliot Williams

The trees along Monaro Street were lit up in purple last week to raise awareness for epilepsy with March being Epilepsy Awareness Month.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council responded to a request from local Kerry McMurray who reached out over social media.

“I didn’t expect to get any sort of response,” Ms McMurray said.

“When they got back to me and told me they’d lit up the trees I couldn’t stop crying.”

As a qualified horticulturalist who spent six years working at the old Queanbeyan nursery, the gesture held extra significance.

Ms McMurray said she tried to be a voice for people with epilepsy, which she said was a condition that could often get lost among the many worthwhile causes out there.

“My cause is no bigger than any other,” she said.

“But it’s no smaller either.”

Ms McMurray was diagnosed with epilepsy aged 17 and can experience 20 to 30 myoclonic seizures a week, uncontrollable jerks or twitches, and two or three tonic-clonic seizures a month, full body convulsions.

She said people were often not aware of the toll epilepsy could take on someone’s life, particularly how it affects her family.

Her young daughter suffers anxiety and has difficulty being apart from her mother because she fears Ms McMurray could have a seizure, often checking on her repeatedly in the bathroom.

Ms McMurray has not been able to hold a drivers licence for five years and has been told by employers she’s too great a risk to employ. “My daughter shouldn’t have to have that stress,” she said. “I feel like I’m a burden on people,”

Ms McMurray hopes initiatives like Purple Day can help remove the stigma around epilepsy and help sufferers as it can often take a toll on mental health. “You get a lot more confidence when you can do things rather than always being told you can’t,” she said.

A QPRC spokesman said the council got behind Purple Day to help develop positive attitudes within the community and further awareness. 

Ms McMurray hopes they keep it going and “give Canberra a run for their money” in supporting the day.