Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Iyar 5766 - May 10, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

The Cinderella of the Illnesses

Getting along in school is never an easy matter. Think back on it. There's the schoolwork, the teachers, the other children in your class, the other children in the classes above you. In fact, it's really a wonder that most children seem to fare so well in such a complex house of potentially divided interests. With that in mind, have a ponder about this scenario . . .

A child is in class and, out of the blue, with a strange grunting sound, he falls rigidly to the floor; within a short time his whole body shakes, his mouth foams and gradually, gradually, he is still.

Now, I wonder how that child will get along in school the next day?

Try another scenario, another child. This child is sitting in class, the teacher is talking about fractions and this child stops hearing her, just for a minute or two or even less. Somehow she doesn't quite get it. What the teacher is saying now seems not to fit. She has no conscious realization that she missed a part of the explanation. The child next to her probably didn't even notice that she was `out.' This can happen to her several times a day.

I wonder what the parent hears at the parents' evenings of her daughter's school . . .

One more example, this time in the playground. The children are playing ball. One child catches the ball but his arm starts uncontrollably twitching. Half of his face on the same side as the twitchy arm appears distorted. The other children impatiently shout for the ball. Perhaps he can hear them; even if he can, he can't control his arm and must wait until the twitching subsides.

Do you think his friends will want to play with him next time?

EPILEPSY! The very word conjures up images of superstition, witchcraft and the Middle Ages. Isn't it like smallpox, polio and T.B. — a thing of the past? Why, you never hear of it nowadays.

Wrong! One percent of the population suffers from epilepsy and of that one percent, a great majority is children.

Many parents have to face the confusion, worry and sometimes terror of witnessing their child's first epileptic seizures followed by the DIAGNOSIS, followed by . . . . . . ..

I will leave that to your imagination. Epilepsy can strike from birth onwards. Most forms of epilepsy have no known cause. Most forms of epilepsy are not passed on genetically. Most forms of epilepsy are eminently treatable; 80% of cases are completely controlled with drug treatment within two years.

Most people think of an epileptic seizure in terms of a sudden collapse followed by uncontrollable twitching and perhaps frothing at the mouth. In actuality, there are many different forms of seizure, depending upon which part of the brain is affected by the epileptic activity.

Parents who have to face that DIAGNOSIS will hopefully find out all about this and much more too. They will also wait in interminable lines to do all sorts of tests and see all sorts of doctors. They will have to persuade their child to take medicine morning and night, day by day by day. They will have to decide whom to tell. They will have to find a way of telling the child who has epilepsy about what is wrong with him. What do they say to their other children? What about their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins? What will happen in school? What about shidduchim!

People with epilepsy can live perfectly normal lives. Within two years of starting treatment, most sufferers will not have seizures, as long as they take their medicine. People with controlled/balanced epilepsy can learn Torah, run a house, have children, drive, swim, and work at nearly every job/profession. Someone whose epilepsy is not completely controlled can still learn Torah, run a family, have children, swim, cycle, and work at nearly every job/profession. In the heart of Geula, in a little one-story building, there is a welcoming open door for all those who face epilepsy. The office of EYAL, the Israeli Epilepsy Association, is full of informative pamphlets and booklets. Members of the Association can drop in for anything from a chat and a cup of coffee to a professional counseling session. The professional staff goes out to schools of members' children to explain to the staff and the children all about epilepsy. EYAL (Israeli Epilepsy Association) was responsible for persuading the relevant committees to add two more epilepsy treatments to the National Health Insurance `medicine basket' or sal habriut. One percent of the population suffers from epilepsy and that means that approximately one in a hundred of the people who are reading this suffer from epilepsy. A call to 02-5000283 will put you in touch with people who are there to help you in any way they can.

Meanwhile, for those other 99%, please understand that epileptic seizures are caused by an increased electrical activity in some area of the brain. Epilepsy is not infectious. People who have epilepsy are not dangerous. People who have epilepsy are just like you and me in every way apart from when they have a seizure, which can happen to them once a year, once every few months, or, in severe cases once a week or, very rarely, several times a day.

Epileptic seizures can range from the dramatic to the unnoticeable [momentary blackouts called `petit mal']. Some childhood epilepsy disappears by teenagehood. There are many happy thriving Jewish homes where the mother, the father or one of the children have epilepsy. They would be doing even better if the society around them understood . . . If there was an acceptance of their condition as just that, a condition that affects a very small part of their lives. Every neshomoh is a whole world!

Batya Jacobs Social Worker EYAL Israel Epilepsy Association.

Batya Jacobs BSW BSc(ECON) is a mother of ten and a writer.


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