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November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month

Posted on 11/07/2012 @ 11:15 AM

“One day in October of last year, we watched our energetic and happy 6-year-old, Ali, sleep all day, which was unusual for our active, bubbly little girl. When she would wake up for brief moments during the day, she was confused, disoriented and would stare off into space, then fall back asleep. When we took her to the emergency room, Ali did not look like a typical emergency; the staff saw a child who was sleeping and probably just resting from a viral illness. We had to wait an excruciating, frustrating 10 hours in the ER for staff to see what we were seeing. A nurse was drawing Ali's blood when she witnessed the odd behavior. The nurse immediately knew that she was witnessing a seizure and went to speak to the doctor. As parents, those 10 hours were an interminable lifetime; it was heart-wrenching and frustrating, sheer despair at not knowing what was happening. After a five-day hospital stay filled with countless tests came a diagnosis of epilepsy.

“Brett and I have cried and prayed. But now we’re on a mission. We know other parents will go through the same nightmare we did; epilepsy is not uncommon, and sadly we cannot prevent a seizure from happening. But there is so much that we can do, and that includes tackling the lack of knowledge and misperceptions that exist about this condition. My family is partnering with the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida to empower other parents and family members with the knowledge to better understand epilepsy and to know where to find help and support. We also are educating school staff about identifying various types of seizures as well as seizure first aid. Most importantly, we are working to create a better future for Ali and the other 326,000 U.S. children under the age of 15 living with epilepsy. We see wide open possibilities for our daughter and so many others with epilepsy, a beautiful path where epilepsy does not define who they are. Please join us on this journey.” -- Brett and Colleen Wilcox, parents of Ali (7) and Valin (5)

About Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by brief disturbances in the brain’s normal electrical functions, a kind of occasional glitch in the amazing electrical system which controls everything we feel and do. These brief malfunctions (which are called seizures) may temporarily block awareness. They can also cause uncontrollable shaking, convulsions, confusion or affect the senses.

Anyone at any age can have a seizure if the brain is stressed sufficiently by injury or disease. A single seizure isn't epilepsy, although the symptoms are the same. Epilepsy is the name given to seizures that occur more than once because of an underlying condition in the brain.

This month, the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida (EFOF) and families like the Wilcox family are bringing awareness to the nation’s 4th most common neurological disorder after migraine, stroke and Alzheimer’s. A report released this year by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine stated that 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime, a much larger number than the previously stated figure of 1 in 100.

“The IOM report is a wake-up call,” said Karen Basha Egozi, CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida. “1 in 26 shows us epilepsy is not uncommon, yet the report notes the public’s understanding of the disorder is limited and that most people wouldn’t know what do to if they witness someone having a seizure. Epilepsy affects nearly 3 million Americans -- at least 375,000 Floridians live with this chronic condition. This common disorder can happen to anyone at any time; it’s well hidden and often misunderstood. For many, the biggest problem isn’t the disorder itself, it is society’s lack of knowledge about it.”

This month, EFOF will be hosting awareness events across the state and will be highlighting educational information about epilepsy and seizure first aid. Take an interactive quiz online to test your knowledge about seizures by visiting www.epilepsyFLA.org. You can also visit the Foundation’s Facebook and Twitter pages to stay informed of the activities and events.

You are not alone
Every day, the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida is in the community educating teachers, business owners, law enforcement, senior citizens and others about epilepsy. They provide an array of services to people living with epilepsy and their families. If you or someone you know has questions or would like more information, please call 1-877-55-EPILEPSY (1-877-553-7453) or visit www.epilepsyFLA.org.

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