Sarah Stultz: Be ready in case a loved one has a seizure 

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

One in 10 people will have a seizure, and one in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some point during their lifetime, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

With our son, Landon, his first seizure came at 7 days old.

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We were in our home in Albert Lea when all of a sudden we started noticing our week-old baby blinking strangely. He kept opening and shutting his eyes rhythmically, as if in line with the second hand on a watch.

He wasn’t jerking otherwise, but we knew what we were witnessing wasn’t right.

We rushed him to the hospital, which at that time was just down the street from our house, where hospital staff quickly got him in to be seen and where there he experienced his first bigger grand mal seizure.

Before we knew it, our sweet baby was flown by helicopter to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, and we began our journey with epilepsy.

Over the years there have been highs and lows — moments where we thought the seizures were under control and other times where we frantically watched him around the clock for fear that if we left him alone he would experience another seizure that would not be treated in time. It has been a world of many sleepless nights.

We have seen his seizure types grow to include everything from grand mal seizures — now known as tonic-clonic seizures — to absence seizures, drop seizures and even focal seizures.

Unfortunately, epilepsy is still a large part of his life.

For a time he would wear a helmet because out of the blue his body would go limp and he would drop into a seizure, often hitting his head on the way down. When one seizure happened, we knew that more would generally follow that same day.

While we have figured out some triggers, there are many times the seizures cannot be predicted, and you feel like you’re in a waiting game, always treading lightly to avoid the inevitable.

Epilepsy affects more than 3 million people in the United States and over 65 million people worldwide, and I think people would be surprised to learn of the people with epilepsy even in our own community.

It seems like reports of seizures come quite regularly, as we hear medical calls come across the scanner in the office.

So what we can we do to be prepared in case we encounter someone with a seizure?

During Epilepsy Awareness Month, the Epilepsy Foundation seeks to get the word out about epilepsy and how to help if you see someone having a seizure.

First, it advises to stay with the person until they are awake and alert after the seizure. Time the seizure, remain calm and check for a medical ID.

Keep the person safe and away from harm.

If they are not awake and aware, turn the person on their side, keep their airway clear, loosen tight clothes around the neck, and put something soft under their head.

If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, call 911. Also call if the person has difficulty breathing, if there are repeated seizures, if the seizure happened in water, if it’s a first-time seizure, if the person is injured, pregnant or sick, or if the person does not return to their usual state.

Do not restrain the individual, and do not put any objects in their mouth. Give rescue medicines as prescribed by a doctor.

Though the information has grown about seizures over the years, there is still much that I think can be done to teach people in the general public about the disorder.

I hope people will do what they can to learn about how to respond if they encounter a person having a seizure. Chances are you might need to know for a friend or family member somewhere down the line. 

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