Unlike my neighbors’ orange jack-o’-lanterns and black-clad witches for Halloween, the fall yard art at my home includes a lot of purple—purple pumpkins to be precise.
As a mother of a now-adult son who had a seizure disorder as a child, The Purple Pumpkin Project has become near and dear to my heart. It has created a purposeful fall season and Halloween for my family.
This grassroots initiative is the brainchild of Ron Lamontagne of Connecticut; his own son was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2009. In starting the project, he hoped to share information about epilepsy with trick-or-treaters and their parents and encourage others to do the same.
In only one year, The Purple Pumpkin Project has gained quite a following on social media, as well as promises of scores of purple pumpkins on the front porches across America and in more than 20 countries.
Epilepsy is often stigmatized and misunderstood, which is why there is a need for good quality information about it.
Epilepsy is the generic term for a medical condition that affects approximately 3 million people in the U.S. and 50 million people worldwide and encompasses more than 40 different syndromes. It’s the third most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s and stroke.
What’s scary is that epilepsy can affect people of all ages, nationalities and races—it can even occur in animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits and mice.
Epileptic seizures are caused by unusual bursts of energy that may occur in just one area of the brain (partial seizures) or throughout the brain (generalized seizures). The symptoms can include blank staring, rapid blinking, chewing, fumbling, wandering, shaking, confused speech and more.
The danger of epilepsy is that it can cause death. The mortality rate among people with epilepsy is two to three times higher, and the risk of sudden death is 24 times greater than that of the general population.
This year, an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 people will die from seizures and related causes, including status epilepticus (non-stop seizures), sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), drowning and other accidents.
Television and movies sometimes present epileptic seizures as people falling on the floor and jerking all over. In reality, there are a lot of variations on the theme.
Remembering some first-aid tips can be critical if you encounter someone having a seizure.
- Ask if the person is OK using a calm voice and make sure they are in a safe position.
- Cushion the person’s head, remove eyeglasses and loosen any tight clothing.
- Do not hold the person down or place anything in or near the person’s mouth.
- Time the seizure with your watch or smartphone.
- Call 911 if the seizure lasts more than five minutes, or if there are any other signs of illness, pregnancy or slow recovery.
- Do not leave the person until help arrives and/or the person is fully recovered.
November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. For more information about epilepsy and ways you can increase awareness about this often-misunderstood medical condition, visit The Epilepsy Foundation or the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas.