January 20, 2010

One of these things is not like the other ones...

When you hear the word "seizure", do you picture someone flopping around on the floor in big jerky movements? Most people do. There are a many different kinds of seizure, though. Although she's doing well now (with just one type after she falls asleep), my daughter Jade has had six different types of generalized seizures and, depending on which definition you'd like to use, seven.

She has had:
  1. Myoclonic seizures.  You know when you're drifting off to sleep and... BANG! ...your body jerks?  Imagine having those while you're awake.
  2. Tonic seizures.  Imagine certain muscles in your body flexed (no matter what you were doing at the time) and stayed that way until the seizure passed.
  3. Tonic-Clonic seizures (previously known as a "grand mal").  This is the flopping on the floor kind of seizure.  This was the first type of seizure we saw Jade have.
  4. Absence seizures (previously known as "petit mal").  Jade has had two different kinds of absence seizure:
    1. Typical.  When Jade had these, she looked like she was spaced out, usually staring at something in the distance or her eyes would roll into the back of her head.  She would stop in the middle of whatever she was doing while the world stopped existing for a few (fortunately) brief moments and then she would continue where she left off (if it didn't totally derail her train of thought.
    2. Atypical.  When Jade had these, she looked like she was having a typical atonic seizure, but she could hear (and was aware) of what was going on around her.
  5. Atonic seizures.  Oh, I hated these ones.  Imagine you're walking along and then BOOM! Your body goes limp and you fall, straight for the ground with no hope of cushioning the landing.  Poor Jade's face got so banged up, even with a helmet.  It almost seemed like she was trying to land on her nose and mouth, her "aim" was that good.
The final type of seizure was status epilepticus which, according to Wikipedia, is
defined as one continuous unremitting seizure lasting longer than 30 minutes, or recurrent seizures without regaining consciousness between seizures for greater than 30 minutes.
I share all of this because 1 in every 100 people have epilepsy (more than one unprovoked seizure with the tendency to have more).  Yes, it's that common.  And it doesn't always manifest itself the way we tend to think it does.  Sometimes, it's very, very subtle.  When something is that common, it's worth knowing what to watch for - and it's worth knowing how to respond to a seizure if you need to.

Here is a video produced by the BC Epilepsy Society.  It's meant for teachers/educators, but does a good job demonstrating a variety of different seizure types and has a nice, quick overview of first aid for seizures.

Oh, and the doctor that's featured in the video?  That's Jade's epileptologist.   (Neat, eh?)


Megan said...

Thanks for posting this. I have temporal-lobe epilepsy with complex partial seizures, which are described at about 3:00. Most people think of grand mal seizures when they hear the word "epilepsy".

Jennybell said...

Naomi has myoclonic and tonic, oddly the tonic only seem to affect her legs and that's why she falls.
I think more need to know about the absence seizures. Bill's sister has a nephew who was at her house with his other cousins, watching TV, every one else went to go eat and he just sat there. They kept yelling at him and he didn't respond, then he came around and they just thought he'd been tuned into the TV. Later he started having Grand mal seizures and was eventually diagnosed with JME, but my sister in law never in a million years would have thought she was witnessing a seizure when he was sitting there in front of the TV

Anonymous said...

My maternal grandmother had epilepsy (the BIG family secret when I grew up) and from your excellent descriptions, I feel safe in saying that hers were tonic-clonic seizures and atonic ones. I and my cousins weren't told what it was until we were grown...
Thank you for this post!