In our society today, epilepsy is a common disease affecting 8-13 per 1000 inhabitants in the urban communities of Lagos [dada 1970] and those affected are known to suffer a certain stigma. Most people think it is a contagious disease and as such run away from them and want to have nothing to do with them, but here is the good thing, epilepsy is NOT a contagious disease, this means you can have them as friends and even be of help to them, when necessary.
Before moving any further, it’s necessary to know, the meaning of certain terms:
Seizure: this happens when there is a sudden electrical discharge in the brain. It can also be informally called a ‘fit’
Epilepsy: this is the tendency to have recurrent seizures
The outward effect can be as dramatic as a jerking movement of the arms and legs [tonic-clonic seizures] or as mild as a brief loss of awareness [absence seizures]. Sometimes it is not accompanied by convulsions but a full body ‘slump’ where the person will simply lose body control and fall to the ground.
•Infections in the brain
•Trauma [difficult birth, brain injury] and hypoxia[reduced oxygen]
•Drugs like chloroquine, promethazine, Risperdal etc.
•Metabolic problems like hypoglycemia[low blood sugar levels]
These are things that make seizures more likely for some people with epilepsy. They are as follows:
•Infections like malaria
•Not sleeping well
•Drinking too much alcohol
•Flickering Light, loud noise
•Skipping medication etc.
HOW TO BE USEFUL TO A ‘FITTING’ PERSON
•Don’t freak out and run away, the fit doesn’t kill them, it’s the complications that do.
•Move the person to an open space, away from danger[fire, pool, sharp objects etc.], if they are not in danger, don’t move them
•Cushion their head
•Lie them on their left side[recovery position] after the fit to aid breathing
•Don’t restrain their movement
•Don’t put anything in their mouth during the fit, if you are present before it starts, place a padded gag or a tightly folded handkerchief between their teeth to prevent tongue biting, avoid using your fingers, spoons or sharp objects.
•If the seizure continues for more than 5 minutes, get them to the nearest health care facility
Finally, the social problems encountered by school children with epilepsy as a result of negative attitudes and beliefs are enormous. The school teachers’ perception plays a significant role in the approach to care of the affected students. Therefore the school teachers can be the starting point in handling this issue.
Dealing with this ailment is enough trouble on it’s own, without adding the stigma.
¤Just remember, it could happen to anyone¤