April 1, 2011

Testimony to the IOM

Very recently, I was supposed to offer testimony to the IOM. This group is looking into epilepsy and how best we can help persons with epilepsy. So, they have formed a series of meetings and have invited everyone with an oipinion to step forward and offer suggestions.
The Institute of Medicine is funded by the National Science Foundation, and might be able to assist us in some fundamental ways. Their next panel discussions are in June, Washington D.C., so anyone interested should Google them and see about attending.
Here's what I wrote to them:

There is a terrible gap in the quality of care owing to a lack of comprehension about epilepsy. The phrase “a commonly occurring

neurological disorder” frequently leads laypersons and professionals to

assume that epilepsy is not serious or dangerous to the patient. A more

refined amendment to approaches in medical school education would

benefit patients of all ages, and might make general practitioners and

neurologists more comfortable treating their patients with epilepsy.

Within the past ten years, I have been told by neurologists that “It

could be worse, at least epilepsy can’t kill you” and “Well, we’ll see if you

really have epilepsy: I will take you off all of your medications, and then if

you seize, we will know for certain”. During the same time, GP’s have

suggested that a tonic-clonic seizure has not occurred unless it is

accompanied by urination” and “It is very easy to fake epilepsy. Some of

you people do it for the attention.”

Clearly, these are physicians who are behind on their reading and

who might benefit from a specific educational approach. Initially, I would

suggest a survey into the Attitudes of Physicians toward their Patients

with Epilepsy.

Because physicians can, by their personal attitudes, enhance or

diminish stigma to epilepsy in the community and within the family, they

are also central to quality of life issues. Additionally, physicians with poor

knowledge of epilepsy often have the tendency to view this disorder

according to the germ theory model. They become easily frustrated when

they cannot fulfill their own expectations to find a cure for epilepsy; this

can breed hostility between patient and doctor.

It is also important that health insurers be more broadly introduced

to the neurological sub-specialty, epileptology. The diagnostic codes and

data used to make referral decisions for patients could be smoothed if this

category were supplied to them as a legitimate category in neurology.

So it seems that I am speaking about the need for a more intensified

educational approach, not only for the public at large, but also for the

professional population as a whole.

Treating epilepsy can be as frustrating for doctors as it is for

patients. Still, passing along bad information or resorting to cruelty is not

an answer. A cardiologist would not suggest taking a new heart patient off

his medications to see if he would have a heart attack to confirm a


Perhaps one of the more ridiculous “cures” ever provided happened

when I was a child. In about 1960, my mother went to see a neurologist.

She talked about me with the doctor, describing my condition in detail. She

mentioned to him that I had long red hair and that she brushed my hair

every morning. She told him that I frequently seized during this process

and more than once, it had triggered status epilepticus. He thought about

what she told him for a moment then concluded that it was my hair that

was the problem. My hair, he told her, was too heavy for my head and

should be cut short to relieve my seizures. She cut my hair off that very afternoon.

So it seems that I am speaking about the need for a more intensified educational approach, not only for the public at large, but also for the professional population as a whole.

We have all learned a lot in the past 55 years of studying and living

with this disorder. I can hardly wait to see how much more we can change

things, together.

Seizing the Moment...

This little bear suggests that we "seize the moment". No doubt, the caption was written by someone without E.,; still, it isn't bad advice. I wanted to say that I have neglected those of you who read my blog in order to focus on an effort to write a collection of short stories on the experience of epilepsy. This has meant that I could no longer siphon off my ideas into my blog postings. It has also required me to take that inward journey to see if there is really anything I can write that is meaningful or significant about experiencing epilepsy.
Today, I just couldn't resist a return. I miss the blog...
I have to say, further, that your comments have been treasured by me. I love the things you tell me, the criticisms you make and the stories you share. Some of you write only a word or two, others more, but I hope you will continue. And I promise to break away every so often to write a new posting and keep my blog as fresh as I can.
My regards and thanks to everyone who reads and follows.
Paula Apodaca