Mt Perry will paint the town purple in memory of Maddie Gill, who died suddenly from SUDEP last year. Photo/Debra Tibbotts.
Mt Perry will paint the town purple in memory of Maddie Gill, who died suddenly from SUDEP last year. Photo/Debra Tibbotts.

She took a nap and never woke up: town's purple tribute

Feeling exhausted after a long day at work on December 5, Maddie Gill told her mother over the phone she planned to have a quick nap before setting up her Christmas tree.

Stopping in a few hours later to check if her friend was feeling any better, Maddie was found dead by her devastated housemate.

At the tender age of 22, the vivacious and spirited university student passed away unexpectedly from Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) last year, a rare condition impacting about one in every 1000 people with epilepsy.

SUDEP strikes without reason and without warning, leaving many families without any explanation regarding the loss of their loved one.

Mt Perry will paint the town purple in memory of Maddie Gill, who died suddenly from SUDEP last year. Photo/Debra Tibbotts.
Mt Perry will paint the town purple in memory of Maddie Gill, who died suddenly from SUDEP last year. Photo/Debra Tibbotts.

Prior to her death, Maddie's mother Debra Tibbotts said she, nor Maddie, even knew SUDEP existed.

"They don't really know what causes SUDEP or why it happens," Mrs Tibbotts said.

"And there's not much research or information in Australia about it.

"Epilepsy in itself can be really scary, and this is just a freak thing that can happen, but it's very real."

Fighting for a grain of knowledge about what happened to her daughter, Mrs Tibbotts aims to raise money and awareness for live-saving research into epilepsy in Australia.

"I've been working closely with Epilepsy Queensland, raising funds through Maddie's memorial page, which has raised $9,000 so far," Mrs Tibbotts said.

Mrs Tibbotts will also be working alongside Epilepsy Queensland for Epilepsy Day on March 26, turning Mt Perry purple to raise money and awareness for the cause.

Mt Perry will turn the town purple for Epilepsy Day on March 26. Photo/Debra Tibbotts.
Mt Perry will turn the town purple for Epilepsy Day on March 26. Photo/Debra Tibbotts.

"The businesses in town, and a few businesses in Gin Gin, are on board and helping to raise money, which will go to Epilepsy Queensland," she said.

"We want the money raised put toward research into SUDEP, and counselling and support for families and friends that are left behind."

Though relatively new to Mount Perry, Mrs Tibbotts said the community has been incredibly supportive of her family and her cause.

Maddie was first diagnosed with petit mal, or absence seizures, when her mother noticed a slight flicker in her eyes at the age of seven.

"She didn't have her first seizure until 2009, and then only had a couple more in the space of a year and a half until her medications were under control," Mrs Tibbotts said.

After an exhausting day at work, Maddie Gill took a nap and never woke up. Photo/Debra Tibbotts.
After an exhausting day at work, Maddie Gill took a nap and never woke up. Photo/Debra Tibbotts.

Prior to her tragic death, Maddie was preparing to start the final year of her marketing degree at Queensland University of Technology.

"She'd moved out a year before and loved her independence and friends, and all that comes with being a 22-year-old," Mrs Tibbotts said.

"She was very vivacious and fun and always brought a smile to everyone's face who met her. She's dearly missed and dearly loved."

"There are so many other charities out there, and it must be very difficult for people to spread themselves across it, but I think epilepsy is one that doesn't really shine that bright compared to others in Australia," Mrs Tibbotts said.

"There are obviously a huge number of causes out there, but for us, this means a lot."

If you'd like to contribute to furthering research for epilepsy in Australia, please visit Maddie's memorial page HERE.

South Burnett


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