Emmerdale’s Jai Sharma panics when his young daughter Eliza has a seizure while in his care next week, leading doctors to prepare the flustered father and co-parent Megan Macey for the possibility their child is developing cerebral palsy.
It’s the second seizure in as many weeks for little girl, following a frightening incident on screen this week where babysitters Leyla Harding and Priya Sharma noticed the child was fitting, with doctors confirming was as a result of epilepsy and that it could signal the onset of cerebral palsy.
Next week, Jai and Megan must face the fact Eliza could be developing the condition, which they were warned may happen when she was starved of oxygen during her difficult birth last year. But for Jai in particular, it’s news that proves difficult to digest.
“Since Eliza was born 18 months ago Jai has been trying to get his head around this,” begins Chris Bisson, who plays Jai. “But the child isn’t given a diagnosis at birth because no one knows exactly how a lack of oxygen will eventually affect them. So parents go through this period of hope that if the child hits the next milestone, whether it be smiling or talking, they will be okay. But it gets to a point where a diagnosis will come and Jai is not ready for that, and when Eliza has a fit it really starts to force the issue.”
Jai is haunted by his panicked reaction to his daughter’s episode, as Bisson explains: “He’s traumatised by seeing the fit. He freezes and doesn’t know what to do, and that scares the life out of him because he gets this overwhelming parent panic and feels he’s not up to the job of looking after her. I think a lot of people have lived through that.”
In contrast, Megan takes control and realises she and Jai must be realistic about the future. “Jai was positive in the beginning and Megan was the one crumbling when Eliza was born and doctors said she could have cerebral palsy,” says Gaynor Faye, aka Megan. “Now they’ve flipped roles as it becomes evident Eliza isn’t keeping up with other children her age.
“It’s all starting to hit home and I think the fact Eliza is with Jai when she has a fit really shocks him.”
Understandably, the parents – who are fractious at the best of times – are soon at loggerheads as emotions start to run high. “There’s confrontation between Megan and Jai because Megan knows Eliza is hitting key milestones and presses the doctor to make the diagnosis, and Jai is very much backing off,” continues Bisson.
“We get a diagnosis of mild spastic diplegia, which is a stiffness to the lower limbs, but that’s not the end of the story as we don’t yet have a sense of any cognitive impairment in Eliza. The painful thing about the story, and what parents we’ve spoken to who’ve gone through this in real life will know, is that it’s all a waiting game and you’re never quite sure of what’s around the corner.”
Realising they tackle this on their own, Megan decides she and Jai visit a cerebral palsy support group – does Faye think this will help the family unit’s future? “Megan encourages Jai to love his daughter for who she is and whatever comes of this illness, they’ll battle on and fight it together. She’s very positive at this point and seeks out support which is crucial for people who have children with any sort of physical illness.”
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