OK, Now Everybody Panic!

Just kidding. Please don’t.

A few days ago, a friend asked me what she should do if I have a seizure while we’re together. Her question—a good one, obviously—made me realize that I should be more proactive about volunteering that information, especially to people I spend significant amounts of time with, so I thought it might be worth providing the basics in blog-entry form. And for those of you who don’t think you know anyone with epilepsy, you’re probably wrong—according to the World Health Organization, approximately fifty million people worldwide have it. Pay attention.

I should begin with a disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, even if I fully intend on making my future children call me Dr. Mom (like in the Robitussin commercials… a PhD in the humanities has to be good for something), and the following is based entirely on a combination of select recommendations from first aid guides and my personal experience and preferences. For a more authoritative source, try here; there are many, many other resources available online.

With that out of the way, I present you with some pertinent points, all regarding tonic-clonic seizures, with which I am best acquainted. (Lucky me! The link above also  provides info about first aid procedures for non-convulsive seizures, which are less talked about but equally important.)

  1. Don’t immediately call for an ambulance. In most cases it’s unnecessary, and when I gain consciousness I’ll be annoyed that I have to deal with paramedics/the ER. Even worse than witnessing me seizing is being subjected to my grumpiness.
  2. That said, take note of when the seizure started; if it lasts for more than five minutes, you have my permission to seek additional help.
  3. As common sense dictates, make sure, to the best of your ability, that I don’t hurt myself. If there are sharp objects in the vicinity, move them. If I’m on a raised surface, don’t let me fall to the ground.
  4. Don’t shove your fingers in my mouth. I won’t swallow my tongue, and your hands are probably dirty.
  5. When the seizure’s over, turn me on my side in case I throw up or am especially drooly. Gross? Yes. Get over it. I’m the one throwing up/in a puddle of drool.
  6. Stick around to make sure I’m OK but don’t overwhelm me. I’ll probably be confused, tired, and nauseated. Also, give me time before showing me Youtube videos of infomercials or attempting to engage me in discussions about politics or literary theory (yeah, it’s happened).
  7. Remember that while being present during a seizure might be overwhelming, scary, and/or weird, this is a routine situation for me. I will (almost definitely) be fine, and so will you.

That’s it, really, besides an obvious, but for me crucial, proposition: though you might be freaked out, do your best not to make me feel like a freak. Epilepsy is a difficult and often misunderstood condition, and though I’ve accepted that it’s part of my life, I’m nonetheless cognizant of and scared by the enduring societal stigma against it.

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6 thoughts on “OK, Now Everybody Panic!

  1. #1 is exactly right. Being in the ER postictal is the worst thing ever. I get very “grumpy.” All I want to do is sleep!! I enjoy your blog. We all need to share our stories with epilepsy! We are people too!

  2. Thanks for sharing this information! I recently learned that ‘no I don’t want an ambulance’ bit and I will admit it was surprising to me as I imagine that is most peoples first reaction. I like the clarification of a time limit as that gives me peace of mind in what to do if I witness someone experiencing a seizure.

  3. this is so well written. we should make sure epilepsy TO sees it. would make such a great pamphlet. i love the honesty and human approach instead of it being medically official. it still has all the crucial points. bravo.

  4. 1. Don’t immediately call for an ambulance. In most cases it’s unnecessary, and when I gain consciousness I’ll be annoyed that I have to deal with the paramedics/ER.

    YES. YES. A thousand times YES. Not only is it not especially necessary (unless I’ve cracked my skull open or rammed my eyeball into a pen or something), but I’m not made of money. I also don’t want to go through my entire life and medical history with whatever strange doctor at whatever strange hospital I happen to be carted off to while I’m in my dazed and confused stage.

    4. Don’t shove your fingers in my mouth. I won’t swallow my tongue, and your hands are probably dirty.

    And you’re likely to lose them!

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