Sunday, January 13, 2008

Epilepsy Alert

Here is what you can do to help someone who is suffering an epileptic attack.

SHOPPERS who regularly patronise Wisma Atria in Damansara Jaya, Selangor, would have noticed a special booth near the main entrance of the supermarket. Every Sunday, visitors will find Serene Low at her stall from 11am to 6pm. She is there to talk to anybody who is interested in knowing more about epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition which causes seizures. According to medical experts, epileptic seizures may be caused by a variety of factors, such as brain damage injuries at birth, head injury, stroke, brain tumour or alcoholism. There is evidence to suggest the condition sometimes has a genetic basis, although this is rare. In many instances, however, the cause of the condition remains a mystery.

Low, who is close to 50, is passionate about the subject because she has the condition. Low was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child. During her teenage years, she used to have as many as two to three seizures a week. But daily medication has changed all that. The last time she had an epileptic attack was three years ago. Today, Low uses every opportunity available to raise awareness about the disease. She wrote in recently to share some of the misconceptions that the public has about the condition.

“When an epileptic has a seizure, it is wrong and dangerous to insert a spoon into his mouth,” Low says. “People use spoons, towels, chopsticks and even their finger to stop the person from biting his tongue. “However, these can cause serious problems like blocking the person’s air passageway instead of helping him,” she explains. “The best thing to do is to make the patient as comfortable and safe as possible, and allow the seizure to take its course.”

Low relates an incident at a restaurant when she had a seizure. She was with a couple of her friends. “I lost consciousness and fell to the floor,” she says. “Everyone was horrified and did not know what to do. Then a tall, burly man used a spoon to forcibly pry open my clenched teeth. Several of my teeth were chipped as a result. I sustained a broken tooth too.”

The traumatic experience did not end there. The first dentist failed to give her enough anaesthetic to numb the pain, and she suffered agony during the surgery. She had to cough up RM500 for the shabby job. The second dentist presented her with a RM8,600 bill ,which also covered the cost of a new bridge for her teeth. That took almost a month to make. Adjusting to a temporary plastic bridge was difficult too.

“I’m sure the kind gentleman who tried to help me would never have dreamt of the nightmare he put me through,” says Low.

Low offers the following steps to help someone experiencing a seizure:

  • Note the time the seizure started and how long it lasted.

  • Quickly remove any hard objects that could cause injury during jerking movements.

  • Do not insert anything into the person’s mouth.

  • Do not attempt to restrain the person or stop the jerking.

  • Protect his head with something soft as best as you can. Use a pillow or cushion if available.

  • Stay with the person until the convulsions stop.

  • When the convulsions stop, gently roll the person onto his side, with the legs bent towards the torso. This is called the recovery position.

  • Establish communication so that you know the person has regained consciousness.

  • Reassure the person and let him know where he is. Tell him that he is safe and that you will stay with him until he recovers.

    When to call an ambulance:

  • When the seizure lasts five minutes or more.

  • When the person has lost consciousness for five minutes or more.

  • If another seizure starts shortly after the first one ends.

  • When the person has sustained an injury.

  • When you know or believe it is the person’s first seizure.

  • If the seizure has occurred in water where drowning is possible.

  • If you know the person has diabetes or is pregnant.

  • Source: The Star paper

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