With his epileptic seizures making it difficult for him to sleep, 46-year-old Gillingham, Kent resident David Neale spends as much as four hours every night in McDonald’s before turning in.
Every night, a man with epilepsy who is terrified of going asleep because he is worried he will die goes to McDonald’s to help him relax.
For up to four hours, David Neale drinks coffee and chats with staff at the fast food restaurant in order to calm down and relax.
Since he was seven years old, the 46-year-old has had sleep-related epilepsy, which can produce violent seizures in the middle of the night.
The thought of falling asleep and never waking up is a “horror of a thought” for Mr Neale, and it keeps him awake.
However, he has discovered a method for overcoming his concerns and preparing for bed that entails spending time at a McDonald’s in Gillingham, Kent.
Mr Neale, who also has autism and OCD said: “I have a structure that keeps me sane.
“Coming to the McDonald’s store in the evenings, having a coffee and a sit down, there seems to be some sort of comfort zone for me there.
“Even when I’m working away from home, it is the same. I will go to a McDonald’s before I get myself ready to go to bed.
“I don’t really know why I’ve developed that.
“Sometimes I can be here for an hour and a half, up to two hours, or some nights it might even float up to three or four hours.”
Staff at the fast food restaurant in Courteney Road have become accustomed to chatting with Mr Neale in the evenings.
Mr Neale said: “They look after me very well at this store.
“A lot of them here know my anxiety levels, they’ve got an understanding.
“Going to McDonald’s kind of ticks a box for me.
“I then feel like I’m in a much better frame of mind to go to bed at night.”
At its worst, Mr Neale was suffering three or four violent seizures in the middle of the night every week.
He said: “There is another section within epilepsy that is known as SUDEP which is sudden unexpected death by epilepsy.
“This is the case, especially with the type of seizures I have – they are pretty violent and you do go unconscious.
“So what can happen during that stage is you are unconscious, your brain can switch-off certain parts of your body so you can stop breathing, your heart can stop.”
Mr Neale’s fear of dying in the middle of the night has gotten worse with age, even though SUDEP remains relatively rare.
He continued: “Imagine this happening when you go to sleep. You go to bed, you shut your eyes and you never see the next day.
“That is a horror of a thought.
“You also have a high risk of injuring yourself in the night, as you can fall out of bed or you can even suffocate in the covers.”
He is planning on teaming with drive-thru staff to raise money for Epilepsy Action this Saturday (March 26), which is ‘Purple Day’, the international day for epilepsy awareness.
Staff will be wearing purple on Saturday to mark the occasion and Mr Neale will be there to help raise awareness about his condition.
Mr Neale said: “I think people need to be aware and to understand how many different types of epilepsy there are.
“I’m quite lucky in reality having sleep-only related epilepsy.
“It doesn’t matter how many seizures I have, I can still drive a car and I still have a lot of things that I can do that others cannot do.
“But then the biggest problem is that there are people that put you all under one blanket and just seem to think that because you are epileptic you are a risk.
“I find this very unfair.
“I have to face discrimination all the time – in my career, at work, no matter what I do. People just don’t know why my epilepsy is different.”