Purple Day focuses on epilepsy

FAIRMONT – March 26 is observed as “Purple Day for Epilepsy” worldwide thanks to a young Canadian girl who felt isolated from her peers because of her epilepsy when she was 8 years old. Fairmont was one of many communities that observed the day.

Earlier this month, Sadie Sandersfeld and Ramsey Freeman got the city to proclaim March 26 as “Purple Day.” On Tuesday, the girls told Fairmont Elementary students the story of Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, who helped originate “Purple Day.”

“She’s 14 now, so she’s our age,” said Sandersfeld during one of the short presentations. “But when she was 8, she felt isolated and alone because no one would invite her over to their house to play or to sleep over, because no one knew what they had to do if she had one of her seizures.”

Epilepsy is diagnosed if a person has two or more seizures that are unprovoked. A seizure happens when a brief, strong surge of electrical activity affects part of or all of the brain.

“I used to have epilepsy, but I outgrew it,” Sandersfeld explained while answering questions from students.

She and Freeman conducted the “Purple Day” promotion as a Girl Scout Silver Awards project, which included handing out water bottles to all the students, along with purple friendship bracelets and purple play-dough to the younger classes.

Their motivation came not only from Sandersfeld’s childhood epilepsy, but also a family friend who suffers from epilepsy.

“There is a student in kindergarten, and they did this project because of her,” said Sandersfeld’s mother, Barb. “It’s already started for her, the isolation, because it is kind of nerve-wracking. But that was why the girls wanted to do this for her, to help people understand.”

Questions from some of the students at Fairmont Elementary demonstrated that epilepsy is not well understood by most people. Students asked questions such as “What is epilepsy?” “What is a seizure?” and “Is epilepsy contagious?”

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions, with three million diagnoses in the U.S. and 50 million people diagnosed worldwide. One in 10 people will have at least one seizure during their lifetime. Because epilepsy is a neurological condition, it is not contagious.

But not all cases of epilepsy are the same. Some people have it in childhood and outgrow it as Sandersfeld did. Others have it their entire lives, while others develop it in adulthood.

There are also different types of seizures, although most people think of a seizure convulsions and losing consciousness. But there are some types of seizures that are not as obvious, such as blank staring, lip smacking, or jerking movements of the arms and legs.

As part of the “Purple Day” awareness, several posters throughout the school promoted two acronyms for helping someone with a seizure: BRAIN and TRUST. While in different orders, the points include being calm, removing any objects around the person seizing, timing how long the seizure lasts, and turning the person onto their side and putting something soft under their head. Never attempt to hold down the seizing person, or attempt to put anything in their mouth. Unless you are certain the person is diagnosed with epilepsy, medical personnel should be contacted. Call 911 if a seizure lasts for longer than 5 minutes, if the person is injured or in water, or if the person does not resume breathing after the seizure ends.

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