by RACHEL L.
“By this time you should already be on the phone with 9-1-1.” Words that my aunt always repeats to my sister and me every time my cousin lands in our care. There are rules, precautions, and techniques that every person in my family needs to know in order to take care of her and ensure that she is safe. Mainly, my family needs to be able to identify which type of seizure she is having in order to know how to help her. All this is because she suffers from a disorder called Epilepsy, a condition that causes seizures.
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder where neurons misfire randomly in the brain. The misfiring results in seizures. However, the cause of these seizures is still completely unknown to scientists, in sixty to seventy percent of Epilepsy where an exact cause can’t be found. A person is diagnosed with Epilepsy when the patient has more than two unprovoked seizures (unprovoked meaning the seizure did not start from a known or reversible medical condition like substance withdrawal or low blood sugar).
A seizure is when something abnormal and uncontrollable happens in the brain, resulting in a physical convulsion. When my cousin experiences a petite mal seizure, her eyes roll back into her head and she spaces out. A side effect of these “episodes” is that she doesn’t remember anything that happened during the seizure, and people have to give her a gentle reminder on what she was talking about or doing when the seizure happened.
There are multiple types of seizures, each one more dangerous than the last. Absence Seizures cause a person stare into space, and their eyes roll back into their head. This type mostly lasts for a few seconds. There are also Clusters, which are multiple seizures in a row. This seizure needs to be treated with a special medicine that can help pull a person with Epilepsy out of the Cluster. Then there is the Grand-Mal, or as it is now known, the Tonic Clonic. This type of seizure can cause multiple dangerous effects. When my cousin has a Grand-Mal, she falls prey to involuntary muscle jerks, stiff body, shaking, or convulsing. As her brain short fires, her body feels like it’s running a marathon, every muscle being used. During this, her body loses its ability to function. She can stop breathing, vomit, or urinate. While this is happening, it is up to the person who is with her to time the Grand-Mal, call 9-1-1, and call her parents. If she is still in it by the 3 minute mark, that person is to administer a rescue drug to try and pull her out of the seizure.
While scientists have made extreme advances in the medical field, this chronic disorder is not one to be pinned down easily by treatments. There are many medicines that Epileptic patients can try in an attempt to treat their disorder: over 2 dozen. Yet it is often a hit or miss process.
Rescue medicines can help pull patients out of severe seizures. Some medications focus on the brain and nerves, creating a calming effect. Other medications are taken when there is an increase in seizure frequency. However, not all treatments are through medicine. In the 1920s, the Ketogenic Diet was created and used to help reduce seizures, but is only considered when two suitable medications have been tried and fail to produce results.
People give up so much because of this chronic disorder. They lose their freedom, their dreams, their independence, and replace all that with injuries, drug side effects, and confusion. Epilepsy is not a joke. It’s deadly, with unknown causes, and has no permanent treatment.