Sarah Stultz: Do you know someone who has epilepsy?

Published 8:14 pm Monday, November 5, 2018

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz


“Another one?” I thought to myself as I listened to the police scanner at work last month. For a while, it seemed like every other day — and sometimes even once a day — there were calls going out about people having seizures.

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Every time I hear the word “seizure” on the scanner, I can’t help but stop what I’m doing and wait as I listen to the age and address of the person who is having the seizure.

I remember in one of the calls there was a student at the high school; in another, there was a young child, and another was an adult.

I let out a sigh. On one hand I was relieved it wasn’t my 6-year-old son, Landon, who has been diagnosed with epilepsy. On the other hand, I was sad and guilty at the same time, knowing somewhere else in our community there was someone who was suffering from the very thing that has caused our family many hours of worry and heartache.

Landon has suffered from seizures since he was 1 week old, and over the years, his seizures have changed in scope and appearance.

For most of his life, his seizures have been somewhat well controlled. We would go months at a time without any major activity, though if he did have a bad day, he would often have a series of uncontrolled seizures, where we would end up in the emergency room or at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.

While the length of his actual seizures has decreased, he now has many more seizures on his bad days — and he has more bad days in general.

We went from going months at a time without any seizures to having one or sometimes multiple bad days a week with as many as 20 seizures in one day.

After Landon had a seizure one evening this summer while walking through the front door and fell back and hit his head — and had to get three staples because of it — we resorted to buying a helmet to protect him in case it were to happen again.

What do seizures look like? There are actually many different types.

When people think of seizures, they most often think of someone’s body stiffening, their eyes rolling back and their limbs shaking — but this is only one form of seizure.

There are absence seizures, which sometimes can look like a vacant stare. There are other seizures where the person is conscious (and aware) that something is happening and will even remember the seizure afterward. Other times, the person’s muscles suddenly relax, and he or she becomes floppy. If standing, the person would usually fall.

According to the Epilepsy Society, epileptic seizures are caused by a disturbance in the electrical activity of the brain. Being diagnosed with epilepsy simply means a person has a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain.

This month is Epilepsy Awareness Month, and it is my hope that people will be aware of the prevalence of epilepsy and support those in our community who deal with both controlled and uncontrolled epilepsy.

Did you know one in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime?

That means in our community of roughly 18,000 people, there will be about 692 people who have epilepsy.

I leave you with a list of people who have made large contributions to society — whether through religion, books, art, music or science — who also had epilepsy.

• Theodore Roosevelt

• Harriet Tubman

• Sir Isaac Newton

• Thomas Edison

• Vincent Van Gogh

• Charles Dickens

• Fyodor Dostoevsky

• Martin Luther

• Leonardo Da Vinci

• Beethoven

• Handel

It is my hope that my son’s epilepsy someday will prove to only be a speed bump in what he can achieve.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.