A quick intro to Margaret:
· She is: 60 something, originally from the US of A (but a resident of Sydney, Australia)
· She is: a Biologist, High School Science Teacher, and Author
· She has also: Worked in Disability Support with people who suffer from Epilepsy
· Her favourite food: a juicy plum mango!
· Her greatest inspiration: the Buddha
Great fact: Margaret’s book is: Platypus Dreaming: The Adventures of One Lucky Platypus and Her Friends
Over to Margaret!
When I was a teenager I suffered from low blood pressure and used to pass out – and not gracefully like in the movies! Many people thought that I was having a seizure, although I wasn’t. It wasn’t epilepsy but I learnt how some people with this condition feel – you wake up feeling confused and embarrassed and people are treating you strangely. Not nice at all.
My first experience with an epileptic seizure happened when I was 18 and working for a doctor in a very poor community in Australia. A man was brought in who was having a tonic-clonic seizure that had started when he was cutting up meat. There was blood everywhere and we Assistants were told back then to hold the man down while the doctor gave him a shot -of what I don’t know. It was quite a nervewracking experience.
Years later I became a high school teacher. We were always taught to be alert when it came to students with epilepsy; but only 1 or two students in a school of over a thousand told us that they had the condition. Since we now know that epilepsy affects around 1% of the population, I know that there were probably 8 or 9 students that didn’t tell us about their condition. Of those who did tell us about their epilepsy; their meds may have been controlling their daytime seizures as no one had a seizure under my watch. We were taught what to do in case though:
· Protect them from injury (remove harmful objects from nearby)
· Cushion their head
· Time how long the seizure lasts
· Aid their breathing by gently placing them in the recovery position once any jerking has stopped (assuming the seizure was a tonic-clonic)
· Stay with them until they are fully recovered
· Be calmly reassuring
We also had to:
· Alert the office so they could call an ambulance (if the seizure was going on for more than 5 minutes)
· NOT put a stick in their mouth!
· Reassure the other students that their friend would be okay and then send them out of the room for privacy.
A few years ago I went into Disability Support and worked in group homes where the clients had multiple physical and neurological disabilities, and to my surprise, every one of them had Epilepsy. Most had it under control but some suffered from what they called intractable epilepsy ( a type of epilepsy that doesn’t respond well to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs)). Even though they were on multiple medications, these people were still were suffering from lots of focal seizures and every few weeks they would have a major seizure (tonic-clonic).
I found the seizures quite unnerving at first but I learned the drill: keep the client safe and comfortable, call an ambulance if it goes on too long and assist with the recovery process.
I have heard that medical marijuana can help some sufferers. I hope that prejudices will not stop this treatment being made available to those who can benefit from it.
I make sure in my teaching capacity that I educate young people about epilepsy so that they are more understanding of those who suffer from it. I teach them that it is not catching and that it is not the work of demons. The prejudices are still there and must be countered at every opportunity.
For those of you who have this condition, I wish you all the best in the future.