The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Epilepsy seminar teaches students risks, treatments

By Leah Bosworth/reporter

NW student Deborah Corley lost her only son in February 2007 when he was 16 years old to a rare disorder called sudden unexplained death in epilepsy.

Having epilepsy herself, Corley attended the Epilepsy Seminar Nov. 17 on NW Campus seeking answers and hoping to learn anything new about the condition that affects her family.

Corley is not alone — about 30,000 people in Tarrant County have epilepsy, said Kelly Halaszyn with the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas.

Everyone is vulnerable to seizures because all people have electrical activity in the brain, he said. People with epilepsy do not have malformed brains.

Halaszyn said epilepsy is a disorder of recurring seizures. A person must have two or more seizures to be considered epileptic.

“Most people think of seizures as a person convulsing on the floor,” he said.

Although there are many types of seizures, Halaszyn said they are divided into two main categories — generalized seizures that involve an electrical disturbance in the whole brain and can lead to convulsions or stiffening of the body and partial seizures that involve a disturbance in a specific part of the brain.

Epilepsy, its symptoms and safety measures are commonly misunderstood, which is why he educates people on the subject, Halaszyn said.

“I want to raise awareness of epilepsy and the proper first aid techniques for seizures,” he said.

Halaszyn became interested in raising epilepsy awareness in 2005 after a camp director from the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas spoke at his high school. He wanted to help erase some of the stigma associated with the condition.

“Most of the time, a seizure is not a medical emergency,” he said.

He presented some first aid procedures used when a person is experiencing a seizure, like avoiding hazards by moving hard or dangerous objects away from them.

Halaszyn said one should not try to restrain those having seizures. This could cause more harm to their body.

He also advised turning them on their side so their mouth is facing the floor and never to put anything in their mouth.

The audience of about 20 people included several epileptics and people who had experienced a seizure. Most had a purple ribbon pinned to their clothing, commemorating Epilepsy Awareness Month.

One audience member, who chose not to give his name, was diagnosed with epilepsy in 1975 after a motorcycle accident.

He said he attended the seminar seeking information on improvements and updates on seizure medications. The full-time student said he has been on his current medication for 35 years, but the side effects have become so damaging he hopes to find a safer alternative.

Halaszyn said 70 percent of the time, the cause of epilepsy is unknown, and 30 percent of the time, it is caused by head trauma, such as those resulting from a motorcycle accident, genetic factors or drug use.

Halaszyn said research continues on unique treatments and origins of epilepsy because a treatment or medication that works agreeably with one person may not work well with another.

The treatment goal for the foundation is to help epileptic people live full, productive lives, Halaszyn said.

Although experts still know little about sudden unexplained death in epilepsy, work is being done to explain its triggers and causes, he said.

Corley said the seminar gave her some hope of finding more information to explain her son’s unexpected death and at least one important question was answered at the seminar.

“I didn’t even know there was a name for it before this,” she said.

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