You’re a happy, active 4-year-old child. One minute, you’re playing ball outside. The next minute you wake up on the ground, feeling exhausted, scared and not knowing what just happened. You look up and see frightened adults and children hovering over you, not knowing what to do.
After this happens to you, people are scared. Some other children don’t want to be your friend anymore. Things like this can and do happen to children with epilepsy, and it’s extremely disheartening.
But we can do something about it.
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. One in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime. Approximately 300,000 children under 14 have epilepsy. There is no cure, and one-third of people with epilepsy live with uncontrolled seizures because medication and surgery do not work for them. Even though epilepsy is common, many do not recognize a seizure when they see one, or know how what to do. Individuals with epilepsy face challenges with medicine management, side effects, stigma, isolation and discrimination.
My daughter, Gabrielle, has been living with epilepsy for 18 years. I’ve written before about her diagnosis and our experiences as a family. She is one of those individuals for whom medication and surgery are not an option, and due to her condition, she has faced discrimination and isolation with friendships, school and church. Fear and lack of knowledge from others has prevented Gabrielle from participating in activities with her peers. Gabrielle was not invited to her classmate’s homes or birthday parties, nor was she allowed to go on school field trips without a parent present.
While witnessing a seizure can be scary, people can equip themselves to help those living with the condition. We can educate ourselves about seizure recognition and first aid, and reach out to those who have epilepsy. Promote awareness this month, especially, by wearing a purple ribbon. Purple is the official color for epilepsy awareness.
Living with epilepsy is challenging enough, but barriers can be broken with education and understanding.