A cancer survivor and nurse who was diagnosed with epilepsy in adulthood said knowledge is power when it comes to this relatively common neurological condition.

ER Consulting Inc, which manages the emergency department at Netcare Olivedale Hospital, recently shone the spotlight on epilepsy awareness to coincide with the recent Epilepsy Week.

Registered nurse Tamara Moyo shared her personal story of learning to live with epilepsy after being diagnosed in 2022. This was to encourage and inform others about this neurological condition, which affects one in every 100 people in South Africa, representing approximately half a million South Africans.

“I survived cancer in 2021, and in August 2022, I moved to Johannesburg to start my new job at Netcare Olivedale Hospital. On November 19, I had my first seizure,” Moyo recalled.

She said it came as a shock, as she had never experienced anything like that before.

“I woke up so confused and had a severe headache, and I had bitten my tongue and was bleeding. The scariest part was not remembering what had happened before that.”

She thanked God that she had the support of her family and colleagues, which led her to be diagnosed as epileptic and begin treatment.

Moyo said although it is difficult to adjust to life with epilepsy, she has empowered herself with knowledge about her condition.

“It really helps to do research because learning to understand epilepsy better helps me to improve my lifestyle and identify what triggers my seizures to manage the condition as best possible,” she said.

She has learned that two of her main triggers are excessive noise and not getting enough sleep.

“I’ve also learnt to recognize how I feel just before a seizure. Sometimes, this has prevented the seizure or at least allowed me to get to a safe place before it starts.”

Other common triggers for epileptic seizures include flashing lights, missed meals, hormonal changes, or stress and anxiety.

“I’m telling my story in the hope that someone will find encouragement in learning to live with their epilepsy because it is not an easy road. My advice is to keep taking your medication as prescribed, get to know what triggers your epileptic seizures and keep going for regular checks with your neurologist or treating doctor because your treatment needs may change over time.”

Medical experts have advised that when someone has a seizure, constrictive clothing around the person’s throat must be loosened. Remove sharp or hard objects, including furniture, near the person, that might cause injury.

Also remove the person’s glasses if he/she is wearing them. Bystanders who may have gathered and are upset by what they’re witnessing should give the person space.

It is also advised to position the person so that they lie on their side in the recovery position, if possible, so that any fluid can drain from their mouth, before emergency medical care is called.

The experts say that people trying to assist should not try to put their fingers or any objects into the person’s mouth during the seizure, nor should they hold the person down or restrain them.

Once the seizure is over, those assisting should check that the person is breathing normally. At this stage, he/she may need to help clear any obstruction from the person’s mouth with their fingers and put the person in the recovery position.

This means laying the person on their side, with their mouth angled downwards so that any fluid or vomit will drain out of the mouth instead of blocking the airways.

 

Source: iol.co.za, Zelda Venter

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