Avril Coelho lives with epilepsy, a long term condition that makes her risk of serious illness from Covid-19 higher than others.

My name is Avril Coelho and I am a councillor for Hampton North Ward. I also work in retail management and am a trustee of Epilepsy Action which keeps me busy and helps the community - which is what really matters to me.

I’ve had my first and second Covid-19 vaccine and have also had my booster. Prior to that, I felt really low, stressed and anxious but now I feel much more at ease, more confident and so much more self-assured.

I’ve had epilepsy since I was nine and I get two to six seizures a month. When I’m less well, or when my stress levels are higher, I have more seizures. I’ve had seizures when I’ve been cooking and burnt my face twice. Once, my ex had to catch his dinner and catch me at the same time and the two collided!

Emotionally, living with epilepsy day-to-day is difficult

My seizures tend to last a minute or two and then I’m back to what I’m doing. What makes it harder is that I can’t speak during a seizure, so instead I use Sign Supported English to demonstrate that there is no need to call an ambulance and that I will be ok in a minute or two.

Emotionally, living with epilepsy day-to-day is difficult. People don’t see it because epilepsy is a hidden disability, but it does physically and mentally drain you.

Part of being a councillor and working where I work increases my stress levels with my epilepsy. When I was shielding, I felt really, really low. I knew that at some point shielding would end and I’d have to return to work, so my anxiety levels were going through the roof. I just wanted a vaccine to come out as soon as possible so that I could protect myself and others.

I managed to book myself in. It was easy and you can just go online and search ‘grab a jab’ to find out where the nearest places are for you to get your vaccine. The vaccine centre was run like a really good and efficient military operation. For my first, second and booster vaccine I asked the staff if they could take a photo of me having the vaccine done. I wanted to put it on social media and tag disability groups and ethnic minority groups to spread the word so that people wouldn’t have those fears and anxieties about having the vaccine which arise from all the myths and rumours spread on social media.

If you have a condition that makes you more susceptible to Covid-19 it’s so important to get protected and to protect yourself and others. It’s never too late and it’s really important to grab a jab to keep yourself and others safe.

Knowing that I had that vaccine has just put my fears out the way.

For more information about epilepsy and Covid, please visit Epilepsy Action’s website. www.epilepsy.org.uk