Sam Docherty was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2005. Although neurosurgery was largely successful, the college lecturer from Eddleston was left with partial paralysis and epilepsy.
Out of that adversity has come a remarkable new invention – a life-saving audio device called Press Don’t Panic. It went on sale last week and, according to Mr Docherty, is a product born of necessity.
His condition led to a radical restructuring of his lifestyle and naturally had legitimate concerns.
“What can I do if I suddenly feel the onset of a seizure, or one starts before I can alert anyone?” he asked himself. “How can I advise anyone who may wish to offer assistance of my condition and the most appropriate action?”
So began his quest for a device which could help him instruct people what to do – and importantly what not to do – in the the event of him suffering an epileptic seizure.
He realised, too, that such a product could save the lives of many others, such as those in diabetic shock or coma, or incapacitated due to allergies or insect bites and stings in a world where the vast majority of people are likely to have had little experience of dealing with such emergencies.
As Mr Docherty faced up to his predicament, there appeared few functional ways of letting people know about a particular condition in an emergency situation.
“There appeared to be only a few alternatives, such as a small card kept in a pocket or handbag, or a medallion or wrist bracelet. But each of these have their own limitations,” recalled Mr Docherty.
The former health service educationalist, who once worked as a consultant with the World Health Organisation, believed that the technology existed to create a much better device; an audio device worn on an outer layer of clothing. He spent the next four years designing and developing the Press Don’t Panic button and creating a company – PDP Audio Alerts Ltd, based at his Peeblesshire home – to take it to a wider circle of people at risk.
The button allows information to be recorded and stored by the wearer in any language, which can then be played back repeatedly when required. The playback, which can run for up to two minutes, can be initiated by the wearer or by those offering assistance.
Incorporating a high-spec sound chip, loud enough to grab the attention of passers-by, the device is designed primarily for sufferers of long-term, life-threatening medical conditions, including epilepsy, diabetes, asthma and heart problems, as well as those with speech disorders, phobias or development disabilities like autism.
At the product launch in Peebles, Mr Docherty’s invention was given some ringing endorsements.
Lesslie Young, chief executive officer of Epilepsy Scotland, enthused: “By pressing the button and listening to the recorded message, the public can confidently assist people with health conditions.
“It also offers reassurance to their families, carers and friend that others can step in without fear if a seizure or fit occurs.”
Gail English, a lecturing colleague of Mr Docherty at Stevenson College in Edinburgh, said: “As the step-parent of a severely autistic son who does not communicate verbally, the Press Don’t Panic audio button is a life-saver.
“On many occasions he has got lost in the street or supermarket and caused great panic. This is a practical and effective way of helping.”
The audio button costs £34 and is available at www.pressdontpanic.com.
Until March 26, which is designated Purple Day for global epilepsy awareness, PDP will donate £3 for each device sold to be split between the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy and the dietary treatment charity Matthew’s Friends.