Epileptics can enjoy quality life too, with proper medication and the right attitude.
WHEEL POWER by ANTHONY THANASAYAN
ONE of the things I enjoy most about writing this column is that I get to meet many interesting people. One of my newest friends is Serene Low who lives in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. Serene, 47, has epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder, which causes seizures. Medical experts say epileptic seizures are caused by over-activity of the brain cells, which produces a surge of electricity.
These seizures can be triggered by brain damage from injuries sustained at birth, head injuries, stroke, brain tumours and alcoholism. In many instances, the cause of epileptic seizures remains a mystery. Serene, a housewife, is happily married with a 19-year-old son. “I am the sixth child in a family of eight,” Serene wrote in her e-mail. “My mum had a difficult time taking care of so many of us. Because of that, she failed to notice my high fever when I was an infant.
“Eventually my parents saw me having convulsions and rushed me to the hospital. After a few days I was diagnosed as an epileptic.” After that Serene experienced seizures every time she had a fever. The attacks came to a stop when she started schooling.
When she was 18, the seizures returned. The timing couldn’t have been more dangerous. “I was swimming in the sea when I suddenly lost consciousness,” explained Serene. “My brother’s friend spotted my head bobbing up and down, from a distance. He pulled me out of the water. By then, my face had turned bluish purple.”
Serene was rushed to the nearest clinic where she was given medical aid. The doctor said she was very lucky to be alive. Serene began making regular visits to the neurologist after that. She was put on medication to control the frequency of her seizures. “Those early days were the most difficult for me,” wrote Serene. “I felt my world crumbling before me. I was bitter and in despair. I threw away the medication, without my parents’ knowledge.” During her college and working days, Serene said her friends and colleagues were terrified whenever they witnessed her epileptic attacks.
“Although many of them felt helpless, they tried their best to help me by placing spoons, T-shirts and towels in my mouth to prevent me from biting my tongue during seizures. It was also traumatic for my parents, especially my mum,” said Serene. The turning point for Serene came when she learnt to accept her condition.
“Everything changed after that. Today, with proper medication, I lead a better quality life with minimal seizures.” Serene learnt everything she could about her condition and went on to take charge of an epilepsy awareness booth at Atria Shopping Centre in Damansara Jaya, Selangor.
A member of the Malaysian Society of Epilepsy, Serene started an epilepsy support group more than three years ago.
Her mission: to continue with what she’s doing to help reduce public stigma towards epileptics.
“Epilepsy does not make me different from others; rather it is how differently others choose to see me,” added Serene.