Amy at the park
Amy as a baby
A young Amy with her dad Brindley
Amy at The Meath with her mum and dad
Amy with her housemates at The Meath
Amy with her boyfriend Chris
Amy has lived at The Meath since 2016 when her home, Bradbury House, first opened its doors to residents. Recalling her early days at The Meath she commented “when I first moved to The Meath, I remember there was an outside concert for residents to perform. I was new and a bit nervous, but I dressed up as Audrey Hepburn and sang Moon River. I loved it, the crowd applauded, and I knew I was home!”
Now a well-established and popular member of The Meath community, Amy is an enthusiastic participant in a broad range of activities. Amy has a striking energy, curiosity, and enthusiasm for life, and a real need to be creative and to perform to feel fulfilled. Her ability to explore a wide range of interests and pursuits is made all the more impressive when one begins to appreciate just how much Amy has to contend with in her daily life.
Talking about epilepsy, seizures, and the challenges that these create is highly personal and potentially upsetting, but Amy is driven by a need to share her story. She doesn’t want sympathy; she doesn’t need it. But she does want people to understand what her life is like. Calmly and candidly, Amy explained how her life journey with epilepsy began. “I had a stroke at 10 months old. Without the stroke I wouldn’t have epilepsy and I wouldn’t have a weaker side.”
Amy lives with a weaker left side because of the stroke she suffered as a baby, and she experiences daily absence seizures. It is usual for Amy to experience between 10-14 seizures every day. She takes 62 pills per day over four rounds and, in addition to epilepsy, she has a mild learning difficulty and a rare metabolic disorder which means that her body cannot process more than 34g of protein every day. Amy is acutely aware of the severity of her dietary requirements. She explained “The pills keep me how I am, without them I couldn’t live the life I want. If I go over my protein allowance by 10 grams, I would be very ill and I could have to go to hospital, it’s serious stuff. I accept it all but it’s always there and it takes real effort to keep on top of it all”.
Just observing the level of hard work that goes into supporting Amy to be well, safe, and as independent as possible is exhausting. Amy’s medical needs are in many ways unimaginably complex and extraordinary; but with the right backstage support, she is able to put her life centre stage and to keep her medical conditions in the wings.
Like every good show, it takes a team of dedicated people to support the star to take to the stage. Staff assist Amy with the complex intricacies of medication changes, medication administration, support her with her diet, her practical and emotional needs, and work with her to enable her to achieve her own goals.
The unpredictable nature of Amy’s frequent seizures means that many daily tasks that most people take for granted are littered with serious hazards. Since living at The Meath, Amy has enjoyed developing and gaining confidence with her independent living skills. “I love cooking, but I could pounce into a seizure at any time, so I do need support to feel safe around knives and heat. However, I have really improved my confidence in the kitchen and my ability to prepare my own meals means that I feel more in control of my special low protein diet.”
While Amy has a dedicated staff team to support her, peer support is also important to her. Amy has close friends and housemates who she’s known since childhood from her previous care setting. “I share a flat with my friends Isobel and Ella. I know them from Young Epilepsy, so we go way back and are really close.”
The Meath provides a nurturing close-knit community, but Amy also enjoys being supported to be an active member of the wider community. She has especially enjoyed the Meath-led, weekly playgroup sessions at a local church. The sessions enable children, their family members and Meath residents to enjoy a fun and relaxed play session and to learn from each other. “I love the Playhouse sessions and spending time with children. When I was younger, I volunteered with a children’s charity, but I had to stop because of my seizures. I couldn’t believe how happy I felt when I got to be with young children again.”
Life at The Meath seems to offer Amy a good balance. Time at home with her family is precious to her, as is her busy daily schedule of activities, social events with friends and her date nights with her boyfriend Chris. Chris lives on site in another house and the pair enjoy many activities together.
Amy is being supported to take part in an observational film documentary with a student film maker from the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham. The film will follow Amy as she achieves the self-set goal of preparing a meal and decorating for a date night with Chris. Such activities require perseverance and offer Amy a huge sense of achievement. Without having gained confidence with cooking Amy may not have set her sights on the goal.
Paradoxically, Amy loves to take part in some activities which would put many people well and truly out of their comfort zones. Creativity and, in particular, performance are a huge part of Amy’s life and the ability to take part in creative and expressive arts is key to her sense of self and wellbeing. She explains why this is: “Singing has always been a big part of my life because my dad is an opera singer. I love dressing up and going on stage! I sing with The Meath Choir. I also like going to shows, whether it’s theatre, musicals or opera.”
Currently The Meath Choir is rehearsing a new song which will be filmed and shown at a forthcoming concert at Glyndebourne in support of The Meath. ‘Bringing The House Down’ takes place on Sunday 10th April thanks to Amy’s dad, British Bass Brindley Sherratt and her mum Chris. Brindley and Chris first had the idea of staging a fundraising concert a few years ago when they received a copy of ‘The Meath Wish List’ from the Fundraising team. They wanted to make a positive difference and realised that, with a little help from their friends, they could.
Back in spring 2020 Brindley had gathered his fellow opera singer friends and all were poised and ready to take to the stage, pro-bono, in support of The Meath. Suddenly all plans and hard work had to be put on hold due to the pandemic. After a bumpy ride of being in and out of lockdowns, Brindley and his friends look forward to the long-awaited concert. Compèred by comedian and opera fan Chris Addison, this unique, star-studded event promises to be well worth the long wait.
Amy looks forward, as always, to sitting next to her mum and brother Matt to see her beloved dad on stage, but this concert is extra special to her. This concert will raise awareness of epilepsy and raise vital funds for The Meath. The concert is taking place, at Glyndebourne, with a some of the leading names in opera and it is all because of her.
To find out more about ‘Bringing The House Down’ visit https://www.meath.org.uk/glyndebourne/