Tuesday, 23 August 2011

6 Bad Places to Have a Seizure

Obviously, there isn't really a "good" place to have a seizure, but some are definitely worse than others. I don't think it is shouted from the rooftops enough just how vulnerable people with uncontrolled epilepsy can be at times, and one of the biggest dangers is having a seizure in a hazardous or unpleasant place. Even some seemingly innocuous locations can have hidden hazards, so I have provided a few of my own bad places to give a flavour. The fact that this fits into a handy "top X of Y" trendwagon is just a happy coincidence.

Please feel free to add any of your own experiences, direct or indirect, in the comments section.

1) An armchair. I know, this one sounds particularly silly, but the fact is, when you have no control over your limbs and you're thrashing around a bit, an armchair really isn't the haven you might think. Just a short while before I wrote this, I had a seizure in an armchair and not only banged my head quite hard on the arm, but then managed to throw myself out onto the floor and hit my head on that, too. Not great.

2) At the shops. First of all, shop floors are cold. They are not at all comfortable. Secondly, if you are at the shops, the chances are that you have shopping, either paid for or awaiting payment, which, even if you don't injure yourself on shelves or other common hazards found in shops, gets complicated when a Concerned Citizen calls an ambulance*.

3) At work. Aside from the potential fallout from your employers (not such a risk if you work for a large or reputable company, but it does still happen sometimes), seizures at work can be really dangerous. In an office, there are desks and electrical items to get tangled with, not to mention swivel chairs, and in non-office work environments, it can get even worse. I used to work in retail and had many a seizure out in the stockroom, surrounded by big, heavy boxes and merchandising displays. Not fun, and that's leaving aside the other, more invisible problem which is co-workers. Again, this is not a universal problem, but I encountered a lot of negative reactions from colleagues when I started having seizures. People basically didn't want to be anywhere near me, because that made them responsible for me if I had a fit. It made life, even in between seizures, very uncomfortable indeed. Few people look at you the same way when they've seen you thrashing around on the floor with your eyes rolling all over the show.

4) The Bathroom. The most apparent danger here is the bath, and general advice for people with epilepsy is either to have showers instead, (preferably) or to constantly make some sort of noise while in the bath to let people know you are okay. Locking the bathroom door is an obvious no. I haven't had a seizure in the bath, but I have had one in the shower, and I can tell you it's not a great experience. I've also had seizures on the bathroom floor, and that too is a cold, unfriendly place. Any water on the floor can be a slipping risk, too.

5) The Kitchen. I shouldn't have to go into too much detail on this one. Kitchens=danger, especially if you have a habit of keeling over or suddenly acting very erratically. Knives and ovens are the obvious hazards, but to be honest, most of the things you find in an ordinary kitchen can be dangerous if you have a seizure. Cupboard handles, crockery, cutlery, pots and pans, all can be fallen on or over. I used to work with ovens, and obviously, that job is now completely out of the question.

6) Stairs. I have had seizures on flights of stairs, and in-between flights of stairs. The fact that I can honestly tell you they are some of the most frightening seizures I'v had is actually a good thing. The thread of consciousness I kept onto stopped me falling down the dratted things. One of them, I locked up going down, and clung to the balustrade for all I was worth. I think I had to be pried off, before I clung to it so hard I fell over the side. The other time, the time I was on the landing, in-between two flights of stairs, I managed to keep pushing myself back from the edge, despite getting ever nearer about three or four times.

So as to not end on a note of doom and gloom, and me nearly falling down concrete stairs, I thought I would point out that while these places are dangerous for people at times, and there are precious few "good" places to have a seizure (I can list "in the middle of a big bed", "during a long-awaited EEG" and "during the flipping ATOS interview" off the top of my head and then pretty much run out), when you've had epilepsy a while, you either get used to working out when a seizure is imminent, or you have a carer who can tell you/keep you safe, or a combination of the two. There are lots of strategies for minimising risks, but while you can (mostly) make your own home pretty safe, being safe when you are out and about often relies on other people, and what they know. If the people around you know what to do, the danger becomes a heck of a lot less.

*My position on people calling an ambulance is, as I have explained before, a complicated one. People with epilepsy often get frustrated with ambulances being called while they are having a seizure, since most of the time there is nothing that the paramedics can actually do, and it costs a lot of time and money being sent to A&E. On the other hand: I would ALWAYS recommend calling an ambulance if you encounter someone having what looks like a seizure and you either: a) can't find a card/medical jewellery saying they have epilepsy; b) think the seizure has gone on for more than 5 minutes, or they have had a second seizure without recovering from the first; c) think they have injured themselves.

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