Kids and epilepsy

“I’m not sure all the teachers realise that he isn’t not listening. It’s often hard to know when he is having a seizure. I do because I know him so well”. This was the paraphrased conversation I had casually joined at the school gate yesterday.  

Her son has multiple Focal (partial) seizures during the day. A form of epilepsy that often goes unnoticed because the person could simple look like they are daydreaming.  Suddenly I was drawn in to a discussion I knew quite a bit about because both my parents have epilepsy. Mostly, we talked about how to bring about awareness. 

There has been some great discussion about epilepsy in the media recently. Specifically on medicinal cannabis and the Federal Government’s move to loosen importation laws on it. You may have even heard of Barry and Joy Lambert who donated a staggering $34 million to Sydney University for research into the medical use of cannabis a few years ago.

Sydneymum will be having an interview with a consultant who is heavily involved in this research in the coming months. For now I’ve pulled up an old post on epilepsy to continue the conversation. Here we go…

I distinctly remember a day when I was about 10 years old. I’d been warned Dad had an aura (meaning he knew a seizure was coming on) and I was following him around, pretending to be interested in whatever he was doing in the shed. He was standing by the work bench and gripped the vice when he went into the grand mal fit we’d been waiting for. He fell to the floor, shook and jerked, made strange sounds, wet his pants. I put him on his side and waited for it to take its course. It was the first time I had been alone with a seizure, but I’d seen many before so I knew what to do.

My father’s seizures looked scary but they don’t all look like that.  Some people with epilepsy simply look like they are daydreaming or not paying attention for about 10 seconds and then there are many different types in between.

In a quick search to find some awareness raising facts on epilepsy I discovered:

 Nearly 800,000 people in Australia will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some stage in life.

That’s an extraordinarily high figure for a something we don’t hear a lot about. Don’t you think? Naturally, these stats include lots of well known people who live/d with epilepsy. How’s this for an impressive list?neil_young_wallpaper

Neil Young,  Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Agatha Christie, Socrates, Danny Glover, Joan of Arc, Harriet Tubman, Napoleon Bonaparte, Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Richard Burton, Alfred Nobel, Thomas Edison, Margaux Hemingway, Adam Horovitz from the Beastie Boys, Mike Skinner from The Streets, and loads more from heroes and politicians, to maestro and geniuses.


Here are a few facts that I already knew:

  • Epilepsy is not contagious, not a disease and not a psychological disorder.

  • There is currently no cure for epilepsy.

  • For more than half of people with epilepsy, medication will control seizures.

  • Some children outgrow their epilepsy and some adults have a spontaneous remission.

I also know how to look after someone having a seizure and now you can too:

First Aid for Tonic Clonic Seizures     

  • Stay calm – remain with the person.   Time the seizure.
  • Protect from injury –  remove any hard objects from the area.
  • Protect the head – place something soft under their head and loosen any tight clothing.
  • Gently roll the person on their side as soon as it is possible to do so and firmly push the angle of the jaw forward to assist with breathing. A person cannot ‘swallow their tongue’ but the tongue can move back to cause a serious block to breathing.
  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally and calmly talk to the person until the regain consciousness, usually within a few minutes.
  • Reassure the person that they are safe and that you will stay with them while they recover.


  • Restrain the person’s movements.  Force anything into the mouth.
  • Give the person water, pills or food until they are fully alert.
  • After the seizure, the person should be placed on their side. Keep in mind there is a small risk of post-seizure vomiting, before the person is fully alert. Therefore the person’s head should be turned so that any vomit will drain out of the mouth without being inhaled. Stay with the person until he/she recovers (5 to 20 minutes).
  • In the event of a seizure follow instructions in the individual’s seizure care plan. However if you do not know the person, or there is no care plan:  Call an ambulance – 000


Author: Sharon Quill

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