Greater awareness of epilepsy sufferers will lead to acceptance

On Tuesday night, I helped a young male sales assistant at Tangs Department store who was convulsing on the floor.

He was huffing and puffing, distending his cheeks with every exhalation and he could not talk.

When his faculties returned, he said he had not taken the evening dose of his medication and had no idea what had happened.

When a seizure occurs, there is little anyone can do to stop it. The principal objective is to keep the individual having the seizure from suffering any injury.

Trying to restrain convulsive movements of the limbs or trunk can injure both the one having the seizure and the one restraining him.

Rather than hold the victim's arms and legs, one should try to clear objects out of his way.

With seizures that involve little thrashing about and much strenuous posturing, pillows placed under or around the victim may reduce bruising.

If the victim is already unconscious and lying on his back when he is found, it is often a good idea to roll him onto his side to keep him from choking.

When changing his position, one should push or pull the trunk, not the limbs, because shoulder dislocations sometimes occur during generalised convulsions.

I was told that the young man had started work only two days earlier. I hope that he will not be dismissed because of his epilepsy.

To this I would add a request for greater awareness from Tangs of the needs of people with epilepsy, beyond seizure control, and a plea for them to be listened to and taken seriously.

Acceptance of people with epilepsy by the community is so crucial to give them social and psychological space. And this can only come from awareness and understanding of what epilepsy is.

People with epilepsy still do hope for a better tomorrow.

Goh Keng Hwee

Executive Director/Epilepsy Counsellor

Epilepsy Care Group Singapore