Epilepsy sufferer Karl, who has made a career as BBC sports commentator, shares his story and how to react to a seizure

Karl Bates.

Karl Bates. - Credit: Archant

Karl Bates experienced his first seizure aged 23. He can remember waking up in hospital feeling “worried and scared, not knowing what had happened”.

For five years, he had regular seizures. Unable to drive, he felt trapped. But, with the support of his wife, family and friends, he says he decided to “take the bull by the horns” and not let epilepsy dictate how he lived his life.

The 38 year-old father-of-one has gone on to forge a successful career as a BBC sports commentator, even reading the scores live on Saturday afternoon on BBC 1.

Now, as part of his involvement in charity Epilepsy Action, he wants to raise awareness of the condition, which affects 600,000 people in the UK.

And he wants people to know how to react when someone suffers a seizure.

Mr Bates says: “One day I was sitting around with family having a picture taken. I was perfectly fine. Then, I woke up in hospital, worried and scared, having no idea what had happened.

“I was diagnosed with epilepsy aged 23. I lost my license for five years as unfortunately I kept having seizures around 10 to 11 months after the previous one.

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“It was a nightmare trying to get around. I felt very childish. But, with the help of my family, I got through it.

“I later found out my dad had a couple of seizures, but he’s very old school, so he didn’t talk about it.”

The longest Mr Bates has gone between seizures is seven years. The closest together were three months apart. With the help of medication, he has not suffered a daytime seizure for 10 years (he only has them at night).

He says he considers himself “very lucky” compared to some people with epilepsy, who suffer 20 to 30 seizures a day. This feeling has driven him on to fulfil his dream and work in sports broadcasting.

He says: “I decided to take the bull by the horns and not let epilepsy stop me achieving what I wanted to do in life.

“I am extremely proud of what I have done. Don’t get me wrong - my wife has been an incredible help to me and kept me going when the chips are down, but I think this proves that epilepsy should not stand in your way if you want to achieve your goals.”


There are 40 different types of seizure

There are 600,000 people with epilepsy in the UK (around 1 in every 103 people)

Every day in the UK 87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy


Move them away from anything that could cause injury – such as a busy road or hot cooker

Cushion their head if they’re on the ground

Loosen any tight clothing around their neck – such as a collar or tie, to aid breathing

When their convulsions stop, turn them so that they’re lying on their side

Stay with them and talk to them calmly until they have recovered

Note the time the seizure starts and finishes

Don’t put anything in the person’s mouth, including your fingers. They may bite their tongue, but this will heal. Putting an object in their mouth could cause more damage.

As the person is coming round, they may be confused, so try to comfort them.

Mr Bates says: “It might be scary to see someone having a seizure, but don’t panic. Try to comfort them and make sure they’re not hurting themselves.

“While the seizure generally lasts a few minutes, the person will often feel confused or drowsy for up to a few hours, before returning to normal.”