As stores fill to bursting with bright red Mylar balloons, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and mountains of envelope-encased sentiments in honor of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine, remember that he is also the patron saint of epilepsy.
Medicine and religion have long been intertwined, however medical practitioners were sometimes regarded skeptically in medieval times causing people to seek spiritual intervention for their illnesses. In addition, brain disorders in the 14 th and 15 th centuries were widely regarded as supernatural phenomena incited by evil spirits or the devil.
Because many people believed their symptoms were the work of dark spiritual forces, it made sense for them to combat their perceived tormenters with an antidote to evil in the form of saints—in particular patron saints, who were believed to have restorative abilities for specific ailments.
Information on the origins of St. Valentine's connection to epilepsy differs. Some accounts suggest he is connected to epilepsy because the name Valentine is similar to the German word for "fallen." Epilepsy was once known as the "falling sickness" because some seizures caused a person to lose consciousness and fall. Still other legends propose that a 3 rd century bishop named Valentine von Terni freed the son of a Roman orator from an epileptic seizure.
The good news is, medical research and an increasing variety of scientifically proven therapies have improved the lives of the over 3 million people living with epilepsy in the United States, significantly diminishing the need to turn to supernatural forces for respite!
So this Valentine's Day, amid all the sugar-coated, floral-scented hype, remember that Valentine's Day is notjustfor lovers, it's for people with epilepsy too.