But in this case your knowledge is someone else's power.
This National Epilepsy Week in the UK, the campaign is focused around Seizure First Aid and for good reason. Every time someone with epilepsy does something as simple as go to the shops, if they're not surrounded by people who would know seizure first aid, they put themselves in danger. Of course our automatic response as human beings to a dangerous situation, is to try and avoid it or to make it safe. But without help from the people we're surrounded by, we can't be safe. So the default situation would be isolation of a safe environment like home.
I guess for me, my power, my superpower in terms of my epilepsy, is my independence. I'm not as independent as most of the population, because morally I decided to never drive again, but in that sense my bike is my cape. Seizures are most accurately described for me as an annual event or bi-annual event of late, I'm very very lucky. But I don't believe people who have epilepsy should be lucky on a sliding scale. I believe that we should all be equally lucky that we can have the confidence to go out into daily life and know we're equally safe, because seizure first aid is as commonly taught as how to how to ride a bike.
To the politicians in the UK and anywhere else for that matter, I'd simply say this:
Put epilepsy first aid in the first aid curriculum. The 1 in 100 that have epilepsy will have far more seizures than require resuscitation in their lives, so it's highly likely that if you do encounter a first aid scenario in public, it's someone having a seizure.
For those of you who want to help people with epilepsy, I propose this:
You don't have to donate a penny, you don't have to learn anything taxing, just the following simple steps...
If you see someone go into a seizure look at your watch.
- Even for people used to seeing seizures time can go far faster than normal.
If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, call an ambulance.
- It could save somebody's life.
Put something soft under the head of the person having the seizure.
- For people with epilepsy, it could be the difference between a few hours and a few days recovery.
NEVER put anything in a person having a seizure's mouth.
- It could turn an average seizure into emergency dental surgery or worse and you could injure yourself into the bargain. You also can't swallow your tongue.
NEVER hold anyone down.
- While your instinct might be to want to stop someone from shaking, you could be grinding their bones into the ground.
Move anything dangerous out of harms way.
- This one seems fairly common sense, but obviously move dangerous objects out of harms way. Only in real danger should you move the person having the seizure, ideally just provide cushioning around them if possible instead.
And that's it. That's all you need to know to keep someone having a seizure safer. If you forget, just remember my own personal motto: 'keep calm and put something soft under my head'. If you remember that and the 5 minute rule, you're doing a great job. But it's that simple. No complex explanations as to exactly where to position your hands or remembering the recovery position, just stay with them until the seizure is over and they're safe again.
While I won't ask anyone to get on a bike for 12 hours, I will ask you to do one thing after reading this blog, however, I and many others like me who have epilepsy are extremely grateful to you that you have read it... but please share it. Retweet, Facebook share, even pop the blog link in a WhatsApp message, or put it on Instagram, by doing that, you really could be giving all of us our confidence to be independent back.