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What to Do (and Not Do) If You See Me Having a Seizure

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Epilepsy can happen to anyone. At anytime. Epilepsy doesn’t care who you are, how old you are, what race you are, how healthy your lifestyle is, if you’ve never smoked a day in your life, if no one in your family has ever had epilepsy before. Epilepsy doesn’t care. If epilepsy is meant to happen to you, it will knock on your door and it will become your brain’s new “best friend.”

I have no other family member who has epilepsy. It’s just me. I was moderately healthy. I could have been healthier. One seizure at 16. Six years later, epilepsy knocked on my door unannounced and told me it was staying for a long time.

Other relevant stories:
Is Epilepsy a Disability
Is Epilepsy Contagious
When Was Epilepsy Discovered

I’ve only had two seizures in public to my best recollection. The first, at the gym. Each person was astoundingly kind and went out of their way to help. From the staff to the public. They offered their assistance in any way they could. Of course, this information was told to me by my loving husband.

The second occurrence, at the clothing store. Some were curious, asking if I needed assistance or if I needed an ambulance. Some felt a whole lot better distancing themselves, just watching. They were peeking over the clothing rack as I seized and tried with all my might to regain stable vision. I could hear my husband saying, “Can you hear me? It’s going to be OK. I’ve got you.” In regaining full consciousness, the two of us walked off, and no one said another word to us. Gone. As if we hadn’t been there at all. No, I didn’t want a parade, but I was struck with confusion. Where were the signs of compassion?

If I Have a Seizure, Do:

1. Ask if I/the person with me need(s) assistance.

2. Remain calm.

3. Calm those around you.

4. Call paramedics — if you don’t recognize me, if I’ve become injured, if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, if it’s apparent that I’m pregnant or you know with certainty that I have a medical condition aside from epilepsy.

5. Check for medical identification – if I’m alone, you can check for my contact information, for information regarding what seizure medications I currently take, drug allergies and emergency contact information.

6. Offer reassurance.

7. Perform “Seizure First Aid” if I’m alone and you’re knowledgeable in this area. (Don’t know Seizure First Aid? Check below for image)

Seizure First Aid

If I Have a Seizure, Don’t:

1. Restrain me in any way.

2. Offer me food or drink.

3. Place any sort of object in my mouth. You could injure yourself or me.

4. Perform CPR. – Don’t attempt cardio pulmonary respiration or artificial respiration unless a) I’ve stopped breathing when the seizure has come to an end and 2) you’re certified.

5. Just walk away/ignore what is happening.

6. Simply watch and do nothing to help.

7. Panic.

Do you have any dos or don’ts you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

We all have the ability within us to be compassionate to one another. Let’s always remember to call upon that compassion stored within our hearts when we see someone in a time of need. We’re all on this journey together. We look out for one another. We take care of one another. We can rise above epilepsy together.

It’s so important that we continue to let the public know, let the world know about epilepsy — the condition that could happen to anyone at anytime.

May there be a call for compassion always and recognition for those who are compassionate already. You’re a shining example to so many near and far.

Let’s continue to be a beacon of greater understanding to everyone around the world as we make our way to a cure as one united force. We’re so much stronger together than we are scattered.

Originally published: August 14, 2015
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