JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Experts say about one in 26 people will experience a form of epilepsy in their lifetime. For a condition that is very common, many people know very little about how to react to a seizure.
There are about a dozen different types of epilepsy.
Some people have “grand-mal” seizures, where the body may jolt and become rigid. Others have absence seizures, which usually appears to be a blank stare. To learn more about the different types of seizures, click here.
- If possible, catch their fall
- Clear the area of objects the person may hit
- Turn the person gently onto their side. This will help the person breath
- Loosen anything around the neck that may make it hard to breathe
- Time the seizure, call 911 if it lasts longer than 5 minutes
- DO NOT hold the person down to stop their movements
- DO NOT put anything in the person’s mouth. The person can bite the object off and choke
- DO NOT offer the person food or water until they are fully alert
- Stay with the person until their seizure ends and they are awake.
- You CAN’T swallow your tongue during a seizure, NEVER force anything into the person’s mouth
- Epilepsy is NOT contagious
- Epilepsy is NOT rare. There are more than twice as many people with epilepsy in the U.S. as the number of people with cerebral palsy (500,000), muscular dystrophy (250,000), multiple sclerosis (350,000), and cystic fibrosis (30,000) combined.
- You can die from epilepsy, though it is not frequent. The most common cause of death is sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). While there is a lot we still don’t know about SUDEP, experts estimate that 1 out of every 1,000 people with epilepsy die from SUDEP each year.
Many people with epilepsy turn to organizations like Epilepsy Florida that help educate the community and provide services.
“Probably 60% of what we do is provide direct services for people with epilepsy,” said Epilepsy Florida CEO Karen Basha Egozi.
Among the services Epilepsy Florida provides are support groups, paying for medications, EEGs, neurology appointments and arranging transportation for those who cannot drive.
Epilepsy Florida is celebrating 50 years of service this year, but it is going to be one of the toughest years yet.
These services require a lot of funding, most of which comes from Florida’s seatbelt trust fund. Epilepsy Florida receives a percentage money from seatbelt infraction fines.
“Now we’re extraordinarily concerned because of COVID,” Egozi said. “People aren’t driving. People aren’t out. It’s a very precarious type of funding.”
Margaret Gregory is one of thousands who rely on the organization.
“It is almost like a second family,” Gregory said.
Epilepsy Florida helps Gregory receive her medication and belong to a support group.
“When you have epilepsy, some people look at you different,” Gregory said. “It was really easy for me to discuss epilepsy with people who actually have epilepsy.”
For epilepsy resources and education, or if you would like to donate to Epilepsy Florida, you can log onto epilepsyfl.com.