Little Jenna Jay can have anywhere from 20 to 300 seizures a month.
Just now in elementary school, the youngster was diagnosed with epilepsy at 18 months old.
“Epilepsy is there, but it doesn’t rule the way we are going to live our lives,” said her father, Jason Jay.
The Jay family spoke about their experience with epilepsy as part of a training session Tuesday night at Central Lakes College put on by the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota.
The learning session is part of an effort to label the Brainerd and Baxter communities as “seizure smart” by the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota by the end of the year. That means there’s training for local school personnel, emergency responders and the community to help people learn about epilepsy and the proper way to respond to a seizure. The program helps people with epilepsy feel connected locally to the resources they need to manage seizures.
The Brainerd and Baxter area will be the 19th community to earn the title of seizure smart.
The effort started at the beginning of the year when the foundation heard from families in the area that there was a need for awareness and training. There are 66 families in the Brainerd and Baxter area that are affected by epilepsy, said Tammy Sammon, program manager of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota
At the training session, Dr. Timothy Feyma, from Gillette Children’s Specialty Health Care Neurology, explained to the group more on what epilepsy is and what it looks like.
There are many causes of seizures, he said, like febrile, rotavirus related, trauma or a metabolic disease.
The causes of epilepsy can be genetic or even unknown.
Some people who experience seizures can tell if one is coming, he said. Sometimes they get headaches or experience altered consciousness.
So, what should you do if someone is having a seizure?
• Take a deep breath and remain calm.
• Remove any objects nearby that could cause harm. Call 911.
• Lay the person flat on their side if able to do so safely. Protect their head.
• Keep track of how long the seizure lasts. (If it lasts longer than three minutes, administer rescue medications if available and person is a known epileptic.)
• If you don’t know the person, look for medical identification items like bracelets and necklaces.
What not to do:
• Don’t put fingers or anything else in the person’s mouth.
• Don’t give the person fluids during or right after the seizure.
• Don’t restrain the person.
• Don’t use artificial respiration unless the person isn’t breathing or if water was inhaled.
Some triggers to seizures include sleep depravation, illness, dehydration, strobe lights, hormonal changes or failure to take medications.
“There’s nothing you can do to stop the seizure,” said Lori Braegelmann of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota. “Your job is safety. Show compassion and be reassuring.”
Sammon said a local epilepsy support group will start soon, as well as appointing a volunteer educator to help lead the effort.
“We have to talk about it,” she said. “You have to stand up and say I am one in 26 people with epilepsy.”