Epilepsy is a group of neurological disorders, characterized by recurrent seizures due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Younus’ experience One day, a classmate of mine walked to the front of the lecture hall where he told us he had epilepsy and that he may have occasional seizures. He made it clear that nothing was required on our end – he was just making it clear that nobody should try to restrain him and asking that, if he were hitting his head during a seizure, could someone place a soft object under his head.
Months later, during a study session after class, it happened. At first, we thought he was fooling around – flailing his arms, frothing at the mouth, making odd noises, and hitting his head on a desk. However, after realizing he was not pretending, we recalled what he told us and waited until the seizure passed.
After about 5 minutes, he woke up extremely exhausted, his entire body having undergone vigorous shaking. He would need a ride home that night and a lot of care.
Thanks to his guidance beforehand, we were all able to better support his recovery.
Martin’s experience I’ve had many experiences of rescuing people: rescuing people from car accidents; supporting them during mental health breakdowns; breaking up violent group gatherings; supporting those who thought things were hopeless.
One experience that stands out happened on a nice Saturday afternoon a few years ago when I was at a restaurant with some friends.
The restaurant was full of families, friends and those guys who would wait forever just to play a game of pool. I was one of those guys. Sitting with my friends and a beer in my hand, I heard sounds I will remember for the rest of my life – first a thump followed by the screams of a mother begging for someone to help her adult son, Joe, who was on the floor having an epileptic seizure.
Despite the unknowns, my sense of situational awareness kicked in and I stood up to run across the restaurant. I sat on the floor with Joe, putting his head on my lap to reduce his movement. While supporting him, I ensured the entire restaurant knew that 911 had been called and that I was taking responsibility for his help until emergency responders arrived.
As Joe recovered, he quickly wanted to leave the restaurant. As he got up, he could not keep eye contact and just left the premise all together. His parents followed him out while I and the other people in the restaurant just…watched.
It was at that time where I feel I failed in being a responsible human by failing to communicate to him, his family, and the other restaurant patrons that it’s ok to have the experience he had since it’s out of his control.
I wish I could take that moment back, knowing what I know now. But this is why I'm sharing this story.
It’s ok, you are human.
First Aid for Epilepsy
The main action you can take is to ensure that nobody tries to physically restrain the person undergoing a seizure, although do take action to ensure that the person is not hurting themselves (e.g., if they are banging their head against a hard object, place a soft item between their head and the object).
Let the seizure run its course.
Time the seizure: it should typically last less than 5 minutes. If it lasts longer or if the person has another seizure without fully recovering, call 911. If the person is having a seizure for the first time, is pregnant or has diabetes, also call 911.
Afterward the seizure, the person will need some time to regain full awareness, so stay with them and provide comfort and reassurance.
- Ahsan Zaman, Principal Consultant, Genesis Resiliency
- Younus Imam, Principal Consultant, Genesis Resiliency
- Christine Stolte, PR & Communications Specialist, Genesis Resiliency
- Martin Gierczak, Founder, Genesis Resiliency
Sources: Epilepsy Toronto.