WHEN homegrown artist Leah Pirone suffered an epileptic seizure 17 years ago, her life was shaken to the core.
Lucky to survive the ordeal with no permanent injuries, the then 19-year-old sought spiritual guidance, questioning her reality and ultimately finding purpose.
“Before that point I didn’t really have the feeling that there was any meaning to life,” the 36-year-old said.
“I thought ‘we are just here: we go to school, get married and have children and whatever else’, and the seizure opened up a whole other world for me.”
Pirone, featuring art in an upcoming epilepsy fundraising auction, said her condition was like having too much light and electricity in the brain.
“I’ve only had the one seizure: a tonic clonic, which is one of the biggest ones you can have,” she said.
“I was in a nightclub and there were strobe lights. I hit the slate floor at 60km an hour and had severe head injuries: my head was bleeding, I had a cracked skull and when I came to, I had no idea what had happened.
“I was rushed to hospital and in ICU for two weeks.”
Pirone’s neurologist said it was a miracle she did not die or suffer severe brain damage.
He also said her sense of smell, taste and short-term memory would never return.
Against all odds, they returned two years later.
“One of the first things I smelt was the rain. From there I began to taste my food again and smell my husband’s aftershave – the one thing I missed the most was being able to smell him,” Pirone said.
“I have no lasting problems; all I have to do is stay away from strobe lights. I can’t go to concerts but I make my way around that.
“Live music is a huge inspiration for me (and her husband is in a band) so I go to gigs and take a scarf to cover my eyes so I’m not around flashing lights.”
Pirone’s work, As Above, So Below, is about the intricate web of life.
“It’s really easy for us to feel confined by our physicality and circumstances sometimes,” she said.
“In a lot of my art, I try to pull the person into a bigger perspective where you can get a bit more of an idea into our place in the world and realise we are not limited by the illness, whether that’s epilepsy or a mental disorder.”
What: Art For Epilepsy online auction
Where: online at www.artforepilepsy.com.au
When: Open for bidding until March 26