GAIL WHITE Everyone should know how to help a person having a seizure
Judy Worley of Girard admits knowing nothing about epilepsy before her son, Matt, became afflicted.
As Judy began to inform relatives, teachers and friends of Matt's seizure disorder, she found that most people were just like she was.
"I had to educate everyone who had contact with him," Judy said, the concern of a mother's love in her voice. "People need to know how to take care of my son if he is having a seizure. Otherwise, they could try to help him but could end up hurting him."
"Get him away from anything dangerous, even if you have to slide him," Judy advised. "Turn his head to the side, and let him go through the seizure. If it lasts more than five minutes, call the paramedics."
Because more than 7,000 people in the Valley live with a seizure disorder, it is information everyone needs to know.
For Matt, the problem with seizures began on his 11th birthday.
"I kept him home from school that day," Judy explained. "He wasn't acting right. He was just out of it."
Matt had always been a joker, and his mother initially suspected his behavior was some kind of joke. His disorientation was disturbingly real enough to keep him home with Mom for the day.
"In the middle of the afternoon, I took him shopping for a birthday present," Judy said. "Matt loves to roller blade. Every birthday, he always wanted new roller blades because he wore them out."
Judy was surprised at Matt's reaction to the new roller blades. "He didn't seem to care," she said. He was like an emotionless robot, answering "yes" and "no" in a flat, monotone voice.
That evening, at dinner, Matt had perked up and seemed more like himself again. It was then that Judy and her husband, Bob, discovered that their son had no recollection of his shopping trip to buy new roller blades.
"He had no memory of that day whatsoever," Judy said, still clearly shaken by the realization.
Went to hospital
They took Matt to the hospital. A brain scan revealed that Matt had suffered a seizure.
"I never knew there were different kinds of seizures," Judy shared.
Matt had experienced a petit mal seizure. Although he was walking and talking, the neurons in his brain were creating electrical activity that disrupted his focus, memory and personality.
It wasn't a birthday present any 11-year-old would wish for.
By the time Matt was 14, his petit mal seizures had progressed into complex partial seizures.
"I could tell when he was having a seizure because he would play with the buttons on his shirt or grab his hair or put his fingers in between each other over and over," Judy said.
One morning, Judy became concerned. She knew Matt was having a seizure.
"We were at home, and I asked him where he was. He said, 'School.' He even named the teacher's class he thought he was in." Judy explained. This had happened before, but this time Matt wasn't coming out of the seizure. Judy took him to the hospital.
"It's a good thing we were at the hospital," Judy said. "He went into a grand mal seizure. His eyes rolled to the back of his head and he began convulsing."
From that day, Matt has had only grand mal seizures. He averages three to seven a year.
"I wonder every day if he will have one," Judy admitted.
"I don't really think about it," Matt said, sharing how he deals with having epilepsy. "Everybody has problems. This is mine. I don't worry about it."
Listening to this 18-year-old, I couldn't think of a better outlook on life. He is absolutely right. Everybody has problems. If you can't change it, don't worry about it.
The rest of us, however, can change our lack of education about epilepsy. We need to know what we would do if we came across a person having a seizure.
XMahoning Valley Epilepsy Fund will have a garage sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at First Christian Assembly Church, 3243 Cardinal Drive, Liberty. Epilepsy educational materials will be free. The fund phone number is (330) 270-8037.