November is National Awareness Epilepsy month. This is the month that everyone touched by epilepsy hopes to extend their knowledge regarding this disorder to other people everywhere. It is a time to explain what it is, how to help people who suffer from seizure disorders and share the idea that there is always hope for a routine, normal life. It is now my turn to participate in this goal and help share my knowledge with you.
What is epilepsy? According to Health Line, epilepsy is defined as a brain disorder that involves repeated, spontaneous seizures of any type. Seizures, which can also be called fits or convulsions, are episodes of disturbed brain function that produce changes in a person’s attention or behavior. They are caused by abnormally excited electrical signals within our brain.
The World Health Organization predicts 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy. Even if you were unaware, there is a very good chance that you have known someone with epilepsy. People with seizure disorders do not wear special shirts or hold signs that say “I Seize”. With the help of special diets, medication or even surgery in the most extreme cases, seizures can be controlled. If you do see someone having a seizure, there are a few important things you can do to help that person. 1.) Gently direct the person towards a safe area. Remove any sharp objects that may present danger as you guide the individual to a comfortable sitting or lying position. 2.) Never, never ever put something in the mouth of a person having a seizure or attempt to restrain any part of their body. Give them space. Give them time. Offer them words of assurance when it is over. Seizures are not contagious. You will not “catch” a seizure from someone, nor will you be hurt in talking to them about it afterwards.
What is the cost that cannot be measured? Here is an attempt to outline a very small portion of things an epileptic must consider. It is important to note that when seizures are properly controlled, people with epilepsy can continue living a normal life.
Regardless of the level of control over the seizures, some precautions should always be taken. Never bathe when alone in the house. A shower is the safest choice. An individual may be at-risk for drowning in small amounts of water when consciousness is lost. For this reason, even swimming alone is never a good idea.
When seizures are uncontrolled, life gets much more complicated. For example, in many states, your driver’s license is lost for an exact six months after having a tonic-clonic seizure. I never was able to figure out what magic happened at one hundred and eighty days! Imagine just being old enough to drive, having your first grand mal seizure and having that privilege taken away from you. Think of giving up your car tomorrow. How do you get to work? How do you make it to your doctors’ appointments? Who will drive your kids to soccer practice? A severe seizure can wear down a body and may pull muscles. How do you call into a new job and explain you will not be in because your body has been temporarily damaged from an event that you cannot recall? It is hard enough to be a father, a mother, a friend or a coworker and know that people need to be able to depend on you. It is harder when you know seizures are unpredictable and can attack when you least expect it. The seizures take away the control of knowing you will be alert and ready to provide for the needs of those depending on you.
It is heartbreaking to be the parent or caretaker and watch your loved one being pulled away into the darkness of the electric storm within their mind. How do you connect with them at that point and decrease the hurt you feel for the child who momentarily has no control over their body? I can understand it is not enough to know they cannot feel what is happening. At times, it remains nearly too painful to watch their inner storm occurring.
How can you help someone with epilepsy? Realize that seizures are common. Much more than you may have realized. A seizure will not hurt a bystander. Epilepsy is not a communicable disease. It cannot spread. As with all aspects of life, knowledge is power. Share this knowledge with everyone you know. Break the myths and offer hope through support.
Now it is your turn. In honor of Epilepsy Awareness Month, I ask that you share this post with others. If you have gained any understanding of epilepsy, please press share below. Do your part to help spread the word. The Epilepsy Foundation is one of the many great organizations that you can visit online to find more information about epilepsy.