Coping with seizures at university
Helping others and yourself
Whatever you want to call them; seizures, convulsive syncopes, fits, the list goes on, but being a sufferer of seizures myself along with many others, I think it is time people are educated on what to do and how to help those in need. The blind panic of feeling a seizure on campus thinking if anyone is going to find me or if all 6ft 2 of me will come crashing to the floor rather embarrassingly in the library, I think it is incredibly important that individuals are adequately prepared to help those having a seizure.
Seizures are something that I don't personally as a sufferer hear many people talking about, and I believe that should change. Being a sufferer of seizures can be an incredibly anxiety inducing situation as we are very fortunate if they happen in the comfort of our own home and not in the Biology building. Not knowing when or where it could next happen, it is important that those around us can offer help. It is a reassuring theme for seizure sufferers to feel guilty, guilty that they require a little extra help sometimes or guilty that people are kind enough to stop what they are doing and sit in a cold hospital through the night with minimal entertainment.
My name is Cece, I am in my final year of studying law, and I have a connective tissue disorder called Loeys-Dietz Syndrome. Loeys-Dietz Syndrome is an incurable illness which effects every single cell in the body due to a mutation of genes. Symptoms of the illness vary drastically from person to person with differing levels of severity. The largest danger of the syndrome however is the effect on the heart meaning that the aorta can rupture at any given moment. I unfortunately live on the more severe end of the spectrum and chances are if you have seen an ambulance on campus in the last two years there is a horrendously high possibility it has had me inside it. The syndrome as of April 2017 is estimated to only effect around 3,000 people, but this number is experientially rising due to the research programme expanding rapidly. One of the side effects of this syndrome is having seizures that like to spring a surprise on me. I have recently succeeded in adopting the mentality of feeling positive towards the situation by keeping those around me informed and ensuring that I myself have done all I can to help myself.
So this is what you should do should you find someone. Remove anything around the patient that could cause an injury, if possible move smaller furniture such as chairs away from the patient. Place something cushioning under their head such as a jacket to prevent a head injury. Time how long the seizures are lasting. Constantly speak to the individual, although they will not respond it is reassuring to hear that someone else is present. Check for medical ID such as bracelets, cards in their wallet or information on their phone. Place the individual into the recovery position if the convulsing has subsided
One of my biggest regrets is failing to help myself by making my lecturers aware of what was going on. I think part of it was my own stubbornness to admit that I needed a little bit more help, I was determined in my head to think that my illness doesn't define me, it will not slow me down and it will not stop me from achieving. It still won’t I just have to accept that sometimes it is okay to accept a little help on the way. I encourage anyone who is struggling or their illness is having an effect on their studies to speak to their advisors or the student services to get the help that they need. Anyone out there that is struggling to cope with any type of illness needs to seek support from not just their peers but the university. It took me till my final year when I had left it all but a bit late to go out and seek the extra help and support that I needed. Through the first two years of my degree I got attendance warnings and couldn't be bothered to fill out the forms over and over again for the same reasons explaining why I wasn't there, hospital trips accounted for constant extension forms on my essays, and I quickly fell behind in my studies. Trying to escape the hole that is being weeks behind on reading and lecture notes as a law student is believe me near-on impossible.
The Fairy Godmother and Holy Grail list of activities I recommend a sufferer to undertake. The first is perhaps the most obvious; make sure your friends, peers or partner is aware of the situation and how to help you. It can be quite a scary situation for someone to help if they have never seen one before, so preparing them and reassuring them is the best thing you can do. Make sure the university is aware and pop yourself down The Disability Services department. This department is one of the most valuable assets you will have available to you and the team there are able to provide you with a plan and help with work loads and exam arrangements should you require them. It may not be the more glamorous pieces of advice but purchasing a Medical ID bracelet will be invaluable. Wearing a small piece of jewellery is important so that if someone finds you they have your name and your condition ready to give to the emergency services. If the idea of wearing a piece of jewellry with your ID on it fills you with dread entering your details onto your Health App on your phone is a good place to start or carrying a small note in your phone case or wallet.
Surrounding yourself with a strong group of friends, having regular meetings with my subject leader and speaking to the student services available to you is the best advice that I can offer, advice I wish very much that I had received when I started university. There are so many options out there for you and you would be surprised how much the university can provide help for you, all you have to do is ask.
More information on Loeys-Dietz Syndrome is available here.
More information on Seizures is available here.