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Epilepsy awareness should be recognized by all

Basketball team's purple jerseys to show support

Megaphone Staff

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The purple awareness ribbon proudly adorns buttonholes and car bumpers, representing as many diverse causes such as Alzheimer’s disease, animal abuse and pancreatic cancer. Through charities and foundations, these have gained popular support and millions of dollars in funding. Yet often overlooked is epilepsy, also encompassed in the purple ribbons’ symbolic color and advocated for in November, dubbed Epilepsy Awareness Month.

Despite its general neglect in the push for societal understanding of neurological disorders, one in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy at some point in his or her lifetimes.

It is defined as recurring episodes of seizures and can be caused by various factors.

Junior James Franklin has had epilepsy since he suffered a seizure as an infant. “It can happen from anything,” Franklin said.

Drugs or alcohol may also induce epilepsy, which lasts forever, he said.

Although about 50 million people worldwide experience this disorder, seizures are generally misunderstood.

“It doesn’t happen a lot and people don’t actually see it,” Franklin said.

“It needs to be out there,” he said.

Although seizures are generally perceived as the Hollywood-style convulsions, this is not always the form they take. Some patients do experience uncontrolled and irregular spasmic movements, while others may have a vacant stare for as little as 15 seconds, suffer a single muscle spasm or undergo constricted breathing.

Our school is fortunate in its perceptive student body, school nurse Mrs. Susan Mourouzis said. When a student appears ill or in need of medical help, they inform Mourouzis of the problem. “I don’t think we ever had to teach them that,” she said.

Yet it remains essential for both the students and the public to understand the steps necessary to ensure the safety of any individual with epilepsy or a similar disorder.

As a rule, “if somebody is acting strange, go get some help right away,” Mourouzis said.

Regardless of the degree of public knowledge for how to approach an individual suffering an epileptic seizure, it remains a prevalent and dangerous disorder. November is particularly important for raising research funding for epilepsy.

In any disorder or illness, the goal is to grow closer to a cure.

“The more money that is raised for these things, the more money that goes into the research (that) helps these kids and these kids’ futures,” Mourouzis said.

According to CURE Epilepsy, 65 million individuals need a cure. Medications and surgeries are available which may aid patients, yet a panacea for the issue has yet to be discovered. Research is ongoing, but funding is desperately needed.

Besides financial assistance, emotional support also benefits those with epilepsy. Understanding what individuals such as Franklin have experienced can encourage them and provide a supportive environment which they need.

“You don’t know what people deal with. Acknowledge that kids live with conditions and disease that are pretty significant,” Mourouzis said.

“If you see somebody with this disorder, just help them and build them up. Don’t let them get down on themselves,” Franklin said.

Franklin said he struggled when his epileptic seizures began. “But the couple past years I kept thinking, I have to keep being strong and move on and not let it get me down. That made me work harder at school and on the court,” Franklin said.

This positive mentality and inner strength enabled Franklin to prove himself as well as to serve as a role model for students in similar situations. “Now people are looking up to me and saying I’m an inspiration to their kids,” he said.

Franklin does not want peers to define him for his epilepsy. Instead, Mourouzis knows him for his cheerfulness and perpetual smile. “He’s pretty inspirational,” Mourouzis said. “He sure inspires me.”

For more information about epilepsy and how to help, visit cureepilepsy.org.

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