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Sarah Stultz: Educate yourself about epilepsy this month

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

 

Some days it’s front and center — an awful disorder our family can’t seem to get away from. There’s not typically an explanation for why it happens, but when it does, all we can do is hope and pray for a good outcome.

On better days, it’s still often on our minds. Knowing we have a son with epilepsy, we have to stick with a routine of twice daily medication and avoid the things we have discovered that lead to seizures.

For Landon, that means windows. Whether he’s looking into or out of them — in the house, on the school bus or in the car — they can be problematic. We’ve learned to cope with what that means. That means adding window tint on our car windows to reduce the glare of the sunlight. That means Landon sitting in the aisle seat instead of in the window seat on the bus, and wearing sunglasses when he is outside. That means keeping the curtains drawn in the house more than I’d like.

For Landon, another problematic thing is the TV. You know when your mom or dad used to tell you to not sit so close to the TV? For him, sitting too close to the TV can lead to seizures. Not a day goes by when we have the TV on that we don’t have to redirect him away from it.

Other things that can trigger his seizures include having a fever, being overtired or simply being overheated.

Sometimes, however, he will have a seizure where there is no known trigger.

I tell you these things not to gain sympathy, only to bring awareness of our family’s journey and the journey of many other families with epilepsy across our community, state and nation.

Landon is one of more than 60,000 people in Minnesota living with epilepsy. According to the Minnesota Epilepsy Foundation, one in 10 people will have a seizure in their lifetime, and one in 26 people will develop epilepsy. Of those people, one-third have uncontrolled seizures — seizures that can’t be controlled by medications.

During the month of November, for National Epilepsy Awareness Month, the Minnesota Epilepsy Foundation is encouraging people to raise their voices and share their stories of living with epilepsy to silence the stigma that sometimes accompanies it.

Though we know epilepsy is a journey that has its highs and lows, it’s nothing for people in the community to be afraid of.

Instead, people should be aware of the basic premise of seizure first aid listed by the foundation in case you encounter someone who has a seizure:

• Stay with the person until they are awake and alert. Time the seizure, and remain calm.

• Keep the person safe. Move or guide them away from harm.

• Turn the person onto their side if they are not awake and aware. Keep the person’s airway clear, loosen tight clothes around their neck and put something small and soft under the head.

Call 911 if a seizure lasts longer than five minutes, the person has difficulty breathing or the seizure occurs in water. Do not restrain them or put objects in their mouth.

While encountering a seizure may seem scary, it is important to offer help when possible.

My family and others will thank you.

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