Hammond: Epileptic reactions also can be misunderstood

August 21, 2013 


Cindi Ross Scoppe’s Aug. 14 column discussing her diabetes (“Randolph case triggers avalanche of misinformation”) was very instructive and timely, and the issues she raised reminded me of some of the experiences of my adult son, who has epilepsy.

His seizures last about a minute, and he clenches his right hand and raises that arm so it could look like he is attacking someone. Those movements could be misunderstood by a stranger or police.

He has been taken to the ER several times when he did not want to go and treated by EMS personnel when he did not want treatment, all the result of strangers calling 911. After a seizure, he often cannot communicate for several minutes, and he gets confused and irritated if he can’t answer questions. A couple of times EMS would not release him until they had checked his blood sugar, and now I know why: A diabetic reaction was suspected.

The experiences of diabetics and epileptics show the difficult job police and EMS personnel have in determining the myriad of possible reasons someone is acting strangely. They cannot always be correct in their response. Wallets will be checked at the hospital, but that is unlikely in the heat of the moment.

My son has a brief warning before the seizure starts, so he will hand a nearby stranger a business-size information card; it says not to call 911 unless he is injured, but since almost everyone has a cell phone, this doesn’t stop a concerned observer from calling. If he is taking a taxi or bus, he gives the driver a note. He has a medic alert bracelet, necklace and golf glove with seizure written on it, but he doesn’t always use all of them.

Many strangers, police and EMS personnel have helped him over the years, and for that he is grateful. Usually he does not require assistance, but if someone calls 911 they will show up and do their job.

This letter is about the misunderstanding of some medical conditions but also the goodness of strangers. We see it during national disasters, and it also exists on a small scale everyday. I know, and my son knows. A recent seizure happened at the Chic-fil-A in Five Points. As he came back to awareness on the floor and under a table, he told me later, a young mother was rubbing his chest and telling him he would be OK.

Dow Hammond III


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