March is also Epilepsy Awareness month. This year those words are not simply words written at the top of my calendar page. This March marks 6 months since my youngest son was diagnosed with epilepsy shortly after his second birthday.
It was a harrowing several months for our family. Unsure what was the cause of the seizures my toddler visited various doctors and underwent many specialized tests including an EEG and an MRI. Most terrifying was the thought that my son had a brain tumor or a debilitating congenital disease so when the diagnosis of Epilepsy (Complex partial seizures) was handed down, the relief that I felt was unlike anything that I have ever known.
Despite the fact that more than 300,000 Canadians live with epilepsy, myths, misconceptions and stigmas still abound.
- Epilepsy is a physical condition characterized by sudden, brief changes in how the brain works. It is a symptom of a neurological disorder.
- Each day in Canada an average of 42 people will learn that they have epilepsy.
- It’s physically impossible to swallow your tongue, so don’t try to force something into someone’s mouth who is having a seizure. You could cause them more harm.
- The medication that exists today helps people with epilepsy live full lives but it is important to note that it is not a cure. The medication acts like a goalie and will not be able to stop all seizures from manifesting. Unfortunately for some people, medication does not work at controlling their seizures.
If you know someone who has a child that has been recently diagnosed with epilepsy, might I offer a few suggestions?
- Moms are a crazy bunch. Their fears kick into overdrive even though some of them are unfounded. Don’t tell them to calm down, instead listen to their fears and be a shoulder to cry on.
- Don’t suggest that it’s “no big deal” and go to list all of the people you know with epilepsy living full lives.
- Don’t say, “It’s not so bad”. You’re right, it is not so bad, but it will take some time for the family to adjust to their new normal. As with any change, it will take time (and possibly a few tears).
I have found several resources to be helpful for our family.
Epilepsy Canada (this is where all of the facts for this post were found)
Mommy, I Feel Funny! A Child’s Experience with Epilepsy – Danielle M. Rocheford (author) and Chris Herrick (illustrator)
Growing Up with Epilepsy: A Practical Guide For Parents – Lynn Bennett Blackburn, PhD.
Epilepsy: 199 Answers: A Doctor Responds to His Patients’ Questions – Andrew N. Wilner
Seizures and Epilepsy in Childhood: A Guide for Parents, 3rd Edition – John M. Freeman, MD, Eileen P.G. Vining,MD, & Diana J. Pillas