Sarah Stultz: One in 26 will develop epilepsy over lifetime

Published 10:41 pm Monday, November 4, 2019

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz


Two weeks and four days.

Email newsletter signup

That’s how long it has been since my 7-year-old son, Landon, had a seizure.

That day, he had multiple seizures — probably at least a half dozen — one of which required the administration of his emergency medication because it lasted over three minutes.

As I write this, I’m crossing my fingers that he doesn’t have another before this column comes out. For many months, he had a bad seizure day once a week, so to go two weeks seizure-free, makes me happy, yet constantly worried about when the next one will strike.

Each of Landon’s bad seizure days are draining, not only for him, but also for many others, depending on where he is when the seizures strike. Sometimes, the seizures happen at home; other times they’re at school; and yet other times they are at Landon’s babysitter’s house or somewhere in public. He’s had seizures in the classroom, on the school bus, in a restaurant parking lot and in the middle of the grocery store, to name a few.

Unfortunately, epilepsy knows no limits.

While we have been able to make a few lifestyle changes to keep some of Landon’s seizure triggers at bay — we’ve had to put darker window tint on our vehicles and Landon is almost always wearing sunglasses when he’s outside because some of his seizures are correlated with light — not all of his seizures are the same and not all are triggered in the same way. For some, we don’t know the trigger at all.

Landon is one of the 3.4 million people across the country with epilepsy. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 150,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy each year. Over a lifetime, one in 10 people will have a seizure, and one in 26 will develop epilepsy.

In Minnesota, 53,700 people have doctor-diagnosed epilepsy or a seizure disorder. Of that number, 7,400 are children ages 17 or younger.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, epilepsy can be caused by different conditions that affect a person’s brain, including a stroke, brain tumor, head injury and central nervous system infection. Many times, however, the cause is unknown.

Because epilepsy can literally affect anyone with a brain, the Epilepsy Foundation is encouraging people to learn seizure first aid.

If you encounter someone with a seizure, you should stay with that person and start timing the seizure. Keep the person safe and move them away from harmful objects.

If they convulse, turn them on their side. Put something small and soft under the head. Do not restrain them.

Never put anything in their mouth. Don’t give them water, pills or food until the person is awake.

Stay with them until they are awake and alert after the seizure. Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, the person has difficulty breathing, is injured or pregnant, if it’s their first seizure, if the seizure occurs in water, if the seizures continue or if the person does not recover.

While seizures can be scary, it is my hope we can increase awareness of epilepsy and how we can best help those in our community who may battle it each day.

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