Sunday, February 24, 2008


My friend updated me lately. He still gets seizures from eating oranges. He had taken note of his diet and found out that an orange a day could trigger a seizure a day. He had been stubborn to accept the fact but lately he decided he ought to stop taking oranges. His orange triggered seizures had affected the performance of his job. There were times when he had to call in to take sick leaves. “As long as I stay away from orange I will be seizure free “.

It is the first time I have heard of such an extremely rare trigger. Anyone of you have such a similar trigger? Care to share with me? Please feel free to share and drop your comments.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Quote of the Day
"Hope. It's a strange word isn't it? How can we have hope when everything is gone? How can we believe that things will get better when we've lost not just ourselves, but others too? The reason is because hope forces us to refuse to give up. It gives the infinite power to never stop trying. Hope is the undying power that drives us to achieve any goal, anywhere, anytime. Never stop believing in hope. Somewhere, somehow hope can exist. Use it to strengthen your heart and empower your soul."
Copyright © 2005 Samuel K. Aidoo


Thursday, February 14, 2008

The History of Valentine's Day

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.

The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)

Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".


Special thanks to American Greetings


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Wales tackles epilepsy scourge


Wales today announced the first ever UK epilepsy care plan.

Epilepsy is the most common neurological condition in Wales. It is estimated that t between 20,000 and 30,000 people are living with epilepsy and that 1,500 more every year develop the condition.

Around 1,000 people die every year in the UK because of epilepsy and the chance of premature death is two or three times more likely for people living with epilepsy compared to the general population.

The plans include measures to reduce the incidence of epilepsy, help people to self-manage their condition and provide more care closer to people's homes reducing the likelihood of hospital admission. It is estimated that well-managed medication procedures can help around 70 per cent of people with epilepsy to be seizure-free, thereby reducing the risk of emergency admission.

Other measures include:

  1. Ensuring prompter assessment, diagnosis and treatment for people with epilepsy.
  2. Each Local Health Board will be required to develop a local action plan for epilepsy and ensure that multi-disciplinary teams are in place.
  3. Developing appropriate evidence-based care pathways to ensure people with epilepsy are treated in the right place, at the right time and by the right person.

The plans were developed in partnership with the All Wales Epilepsy Forum and other key stakeholders including health and social care professionals with special interests and expertise in epilepsy.


Friday, February 8, 2008


My Lions Club friends had on 23 July 2003 invited me to give an epilepsy talk in Prima College, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The Health Talk event was organised by members of Leo Club who were studying in Prima College.

The topic EPILEPSY was unheard off by the Leos. The Leos crowded round me and self introduced themselves. They were such a nice group to be with. Their ignorance, curiosity and keen interest to know more about epilepsy had made it easy for me to have very interactive chats with them before the start of the talk. Students who were not Leos also attended the talk.

A few Leos and I stood at the entrance of the auditorium to hand out leaflets and pamphlets about epilepsy. The talk started with the college’s CEO’s welcoming speech and introduction of me. I had cramps and butterflies in my stomach. I struggled hard to conceal my stage fright. Although it was my second time giving an epilepsy talk I still felt very nervous with my presentation. I recalled my mind went blank for a few minutes during the CEO’s speech. My heartbeat was too fast and my knees were weak. I did not think I would make it on the stage.

Leave the auditorium or stay and do a good epilepsy awareness job.

I had only one option. I made it on the stage. With strength and courage from God I switched on my power point presentation. The talk went well and topics like Epilepsy and Its Triggers, Known Causes of Epilepsy, Myths and Misconceptions of Epilepsy, Epilepsy and Its Social Aspects and Right Ways to Handle a Person in a State of Seizure were covered. A DVD presentation of what is epilepsy and the various types of seizures was also shown.

Lecturers and students actively took part in the Question and Answer session. Questions were asked if epilepsy is hereditary or contagious, how would one know if he or she has epilepsy, how can we prevent PWE from swallowing or biting a piece off their tongue if spoons were not allowed to be inserted into their mouths, is there any cure for epilepsy, how can we prevent ourselves from becoming epileptic, what is absence seizure, how can epilepsy be diagnosed and by who, is there life after seizures and etc.

At the end of the Q & A session I highlighted epilepsy in a humorous way. The students will always remember what they had learned about epilepsy because we had cheeky moments to remember when a male student pretended to be in a state of seizure and called female students to crowd round him so that he can have cheap thrills. The cheeky acts were decent and done for laughter and not in a demeaning way. The students and I had a great time of fellowship and photography session at the end of everything.


Serene Low (seated second from right) and the Leo Club members

Photograph session outside Prima College

Thursday, February 7, 2008


8 November 2002 marked my first fundraising project in aid of Lions Club Of Petaling Jaya Metro – Epilepsy Division.

As an epilepsy activist I had engaged the service of my friends who are members of Lions Club PJ Metro to render their time and commitment in doing epilepsy awareness work. I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with Mr Khor Seng Chew Music Director/Producer of Dama Orchestra concerning my objective to raise fund for the Lions Club. Mr Khor was very supportive of my noble cause. He graciously allowed one of his concert nights to be a platform for my fundraising.

First Picture: Serene (in blue dress) with Lions Club members
Second Picture: Tan Soo Suan (second from left) with Lions Club members

A concert entitled FRAGRANCE OF THE NIGHT ( The Life And Songs Of Li
Xiang Lan ) sang by popular soprano songstress Tan Soo Suan made its successful debut on 8 Nov 2002. There were ten nights of performances starting from 8 till 24 Nov 2002. Throughout the shows the studio packed audiences were treated to Tan’s pure, clear-as-a-bell voice that did not require the assistance of any enhanced acoustics. The audiences were extremely supportive of the performances and the standing ovations were most impressive. Applauses were so thunderous and non stopping that had Tan appear on stage again after the end of the concert to sing another two songs for the encores.

I was invited to be on stage with Tan and Dama Orchestra members. I thanked Mr Khor and members as well as Tan for their willingness and generosity in allowing me to be a part of their great success. I also thanked the audience on my fundraising night for their support and contribution towards a noble cause.


On January 2003 my Lions Club friends started making visitation trips to several poor and needy homes of PWE ( People With Epilepsy ) to survey and find out how mental support and financial assistance can be given. Two beneficiaries were identified to benefit from the fund I raised. Aid in the form of monthly disbursement of money and material things like sofa set, beds, food and grocery items and a motorbike had been given to the beneficiaries.

Today my Lions Club friends are still reaching out to educate and aid more poor and deserving PWE . I am very happy to be a part of Lions Club PJ Metro’s Epilepsy Division. I hope I will be able to establish more new links with other NGOs ( Non Governmental Organisations ) to help disseminate knowledge about EPILEPSY.


Acknowledgement from Dama Orchestra

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I officially joined Malaysian Society of Epilepsy (MSE) in the year 2000 as an ordinary member. Two friends, Rosalind and Margaret persuaded me to join the Society. They had come to know of my passion and commitment towards epilepsy awareness work. My initial few years with MSE were not smooth going. Things did not happen the way I expected it to be. Meetings were held on an irregular basis. Dates of events and activities were always postponed. Members’ participation in meetings was usually poor.


In the year 2003 I was taken to task to help form an epilepsy support group for our members. To get things started and rolling I suggested that an informal gathering be held for members to meet and voice their opinions and preferences of an epilepsy support group. A hotel sponsored our gathering by providing an event hall with light refreshment served. The gathering was themed as a “ Get To Know Each Other Session “. People with and without epilepsy together with caregivers were invited to attend the gathering.

The session started on time with a very good turnout of members and caregivers. I shared with everyone the objective of the gathering and later requested for a show of hands by those in favor of the formation of an epilepsy support group. There was a unanimous show of hands. The first epilepsy support group in Malaysia was started on 26 April 2003. I was appointed by the past president and committee members to be the Support Group Coordinator.

Today Support Group Meetings are still being held regularly but not chaired by me anymore. I handed in my resignation several months ago. My family commitment comes first. My family and I will be away from Malaysia for a few months. A new Support Group Coordinator had taken over my place. It is my wish and hopes that membership attendance will grow bountifully and more epilepsy awareness work and outreach work will be done in the months and years to come.

An epilepsy support group meeting in progress

Serene (top left) with her PWE friends

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


From left : Maggy, Soo Fong, Soo Fong’s husband, my friends Raju and Rosalind

Words by mouth spread and went around - A friend of my friend invited me to her home to share with her knowledge about epilepsy from a patient’s point of view. Soo Fong had heard from my friend about my epilepsy awareness work. She was very keen to meet up with me. Her primary school going daughter had a bad fall while walking up the stair to her classroom in school. Friends screamed in fright and saw her daughter jerked on the staircase platform. Soo Fong received an alarming call from her daughter’s class teacher. She rushed to the school to be with her daughter. After the incident Soo Fong together with her daughter saw a neurologist for medical opinion and advice. She was told that her daughter’s first episode of seizure could not be classified as epilepsy unless her daughter had more than one or repeated seizures.

A loving and concerned caregiver Soo Fong surfed the internet for more information relating to epilepsy. She was elated to know of my epilepsy awareness work. My friends and I took the initiative to go extra miles to offer our time and mental support to Soo Fong and her family members. Two of my friends and I met on a Sunday afternoon at Soo Fong’s home. We had a meaningful time sharing with Soo Fong and her husband about epilepsy, how it affected us, how we accepted, coped and live with it.

Below is Soo Fong’s acknowledgement of our efforts and mental support given by us to her family.

click on image to enlarge

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Singapore 2007 - 27th International Epilepsy Congress

The day was 07.07.07. I was on my way to Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre to attend a symposium for People With Epilepsy (PWE) and their Carers. I was filled with anticipation of good news for PWE and also enthusiastic to meet up with my foreign PWE friends.

There must be close to two hundred PWE and carers in the symposium. Delegates came from Austria, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Argentina, Mongolia, New Zealand, Ireland and Singapore. Talks were given about epilepsy in relation to children, education, employment, driving and family/marital relationships.

Delegates of the Epilepsy Symposium

I found topics on employment and driving very debatable and interesting. Many positive changes could be achieved with parties like Epilepsy Societies, government bodies and private corporate sectors working together to enhance the quality of PWE’s lives. Mr Michael of Austria stole the limelight throughout the syposium talks. He asked questions that threw most of us into deep thoughts. Two Indian delegates gave a power point presentation of their local epilepsy society and its people behind its role and commitment towards educating people about epilepsy. I was most taken by the " Epilepsy Street Plays" carried out at public areas like outdoor market places, parks, and shopping areas where the Indians had crowds of people gather round them to watch live demonstrations on how a PWE ought to be handled in the right ways when in a state of seizure.

After a long day of talks, question and answer sessions the symposium ended with an informal dinner. All delegates congratulated the organisers for the successful event and looked forward to meeting up again in the near future.

Myself sitted on the right with Hong Kong and Singapore delegates

On the next day of the symposium, I had the opportunity to catch up with my Filipino friends, Rose and Jeanne. Rose updated me with the progress of her epilepsy awareness work in Iloilo, a province in Philippines. She educates public transport drivers, people working in banks and shopping malls about epilepsy and ways to help PWE during seizures. Stickers with the message “Epilepsy Friendly Vehicle” and “Epilepsy Friendly Bank/Shopping Mall” were placed on public and private vehicles as well as on entrances of banks and shopping malls.

Jeanne voiced out her disappointment of having to pay all expenses on her own to be able to turn up at the symposium. “How is it that drug companies can fully sponsor doctors to attend such events and not able to do the same for PWE attached to Epilepsy Societies? We are the ones lobbying out front for PWE rights and no neurologists can understand our needs to fight for equalities in life” echoed Jeanne. I agree with my friends.

Myself at the centre. Rose on the right and Jeanne second from the right

People with epilepsy should always make themselves seen and be accepted by society as normal people. Many PWE are easily withdrawn into the confines of their homes. This is a result of how society view and discriminate them. All of us need friends apart from family members and relatives to interact with. Social interaction can pose a great problem for PWE. We yearn to be accepted as a normal integral part of society where rejections and discriminations do not exist.

The last day of the epilepsy congress came. All of us bade farewell to each other. It saddened me to shake hand with one of our Singapore PWE friend. He was close to tears and heavy hearted to see us leave the convention centre. He wished we could stay longer and be his very good friends. I will always remember him. My friends and I will be in touch with him through email.

"Start emerging from your shadows if you are still hiding behind it. Take part actively in talks, seminars, congresses concerning epilepsy. Life is beautiful if you know how to live it. Do not let epilepsy be a stumbling block in your lives. Remember that failures and challenges only make a person stronger at the end of the day."

With some delegates at the Singapore Epilepsy Society's thrift shop