I totally understand misconceptions/misinformation/ignorance on the part of the average person on the street, but I never cease to be amazed by how little some non-neurologist medical professionals know about epilepsy. It’s not like it’s a rare condition—according to the Epilepsy Canada website, about 0.6% of the Canadian population has been diagnosed as epileptic (I am resisting the temptation to provide an MLA citation for that statistic… I keep reminding myself that this is a blog, but old habits die hard). So shouldn’t all doctors and nurses have, you know, a base understanding of how seizures work?
This afternoon I had an appointment with a doctor whose office is in a major Toronto hospital. Walking down the hall on my way out, I felt a familiar feeling beginning to wash over my face so grabbed the nearest nurse and told her that I was having an aura. Blank stare. “I’m epileptic. I’m going to have a seizure.” The s-word never fails to get a reaction, even in the least-informed among us; accordingly, she led me to a nearby chair and suggested I sit down while she get a doctor.
Ummm, ok. I’ll just keep my convulsions at bay while you leave me alone, IN A FOLDING CHAIR, and find someone who understands that epileptic + chair + impending seizure = horribly bad idea.
By the time she got back, the seizure, just a complex-partial, was over. I guess no doctor in this mammoth hospital had been available, because she returned alone and, poor thing, looked a little panicky. Roles now weirdly reversed, I tried to comfort her. “It’s ok, I’m fine. I’ll just leave.” She didn’t protest.
This was definitely an atypical experience. I have dealt with countless nurses since being diagnosed, and the vast majority have been knowledgeable, gentle, and kind. Even in this case, in the end no harm was done, besides the hole gouged in my confidence in the common-sense of human beings everywhere. Speaking of idiocy (yes, I recognize that it’s a strong word, but I’m tired and grumpy), it seems only appropriate to include the following: