June 13, 2008

It's got a name...sort of.

Before the world was charted, early cartographers didn't leave big blank spots all over the "unexplored" parts of their maps. They had pictures of sea monsters and phrases like "here there be tigers" and sometimes, well, they just made stuff up. I don't think the early cartographers did it to make their maps look prettier or to scare the willies out of people or to make their maps look more complete. I think they did it because they were afraid of the unknown; that big blank void that could be absolutely anything, terrific or terrible.

The unknown can be a very frightening thing because our imaginations tend to run away on us and we start to fear the worst. It's much, much easier to deal with something when it's got a name; when it can be identified. Fortunately, they've assigned a name to Jade's seizures: idiopathic generalized epilepsy with tonic-clonic and myoclonic seizures.

So what the heck does that mean?
  • "Epilepsy" is a term that basically means "has had more than one seizure". The word "epilepsy" on its own doesn't really say much because it's not a cause - it's a symptom. It's like a runny nose; it's caused by something else (allergies, a viral infection, crying, laughing suddenly while drinking, etc.). That's why you wouldn't call someone an "epileptic", because it would be like calling them a "runnynose".
  • The "tonic-clonic" and "myoclonic" seizures just describe what the seizures look like and how much of the body is involved.
  • "Generalized" just means that it's happening on both sides of the brain at the same time, which rules out conditions where only a section of the brain is misfiring.
The really interesting word in all of this is "idopathic". According to my dictionary, idiopathic means "relating to or denoting and disease or condition that arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown."  It's the medical way if saying "I'm not sure".

Doesn't that sound comforting?

OK, maybe it doesn't sound comforting for you, but it does for me. It's comforting because it now means that they know a lot about what it isn't - and some of that "isn't" is pretty nasty stuff.  They've been able to rule out a lot of that pretty nasty stuff (though we are still waiting for some test results) and are closer to the realm of "it's not so bad and she'll likely be fine".

So, in this case, giving it a name is almost the same as writing "Terra Incognita", but at least it's better than a big, blank "could be anything".


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear you have some answers and thus some reassuranceand a starting point for finding more answers and figuring out what happens next.


Marian said...

Thanks for the update. Glad you're home safe and "it's not so bad and she'll likely be fine". Good news! The brain is such a strange thing, isn't it?
Love Mom/Gran

Allmycke said...

I'm so glad to hear that you've gotten some answers. This will make it easier for you to enjoy summer in the Yukon. (I'm envious!)
BTW - after the doctors had ruled out rheumatism, arthritis and X number of other conditions, my aches and pains in every joint was given the label "Idiopathic..." My doctor even said it was named like that because they didn't know what caused it.

Meandering Michael said...

Ha ha, thanks Trudie, I'm not 100% sure I would call THAT comforting considering what they found out later...

Peter Tyrrell said...

Yeah, idiopathic is what you call it when you simply don't know what else to call it. As you say though, that means it isn't a whole bunch of scary stuff. Phew.