I’m going to break a promise. I’m going to talk, hopefully just this once, about my son and his seizure condition, because he almost died yesterday. I wish that was an exaggeration, but it really isn’t. He was at camp, had a seizure, and the people there did not know what to do. They laid him down on his back, causing his tongue to fall into his throat, which stopped his breathing. He turned purple, and they started doing chest compressions. He did not die, you will be happy to know. I brought him home, and he is fine now. But he almost wasn’t.
Yesterday, for whatever reason, I posted my most shared article ever to this site. People responded to it, and it spread quickly. Tens of thousands of people have seen it. I hope that today’s post goes even further, because this is important to me. Everyone in this country, and this world, needs to know what to do if they see someone having a seizure. And they don’t. There are two golden rules that are easy to remember, and could save someone’s life. They are:
1) Put them on their side.
2) Keep the area clear around them.
There are other, more nuanced rules, but if you can remember these two, it could mean the difference between someone’s child coming out of a seizure and going home, or never going home again. I am being melodramatic here, but I am not kidding. It’s important, so I will say it again.
1) Put them on their side (so they do not choke on their tongue, or anything else)
2) Keep the area clear around them (so they don’t bang into anything and hurt themselves, especially their heads)
Please. Please. Read this. Memorize it. Share it. Make sure your friends and family read it. If they won’t read it, or you don’t want to share this, then tell them. Seizures are scary, and can cause panic, but if you know what to do, most of the time the people will be just fine. If you want some more rules because you have already memorized the first two, here they are:
3) Remember why you put them on their side? To ease breathing. Other things may be obstructing their air as well, so loosen neckties, unbutton top buttons, make sure they have a clear pathway for air. Being on their side is most important, but if you see another way to remove obstacles, do it.
4) BUT DO NOT PUT YOUR FINGERS IN THEIR MOUTH. If they have seizures a lot and you have a bite stick or bite pad with you, fine. Sometimes these are used to prevent them from biting their tongues. But if you see some random person seizing, do not put anything into their mouths. At all. They could bite through it (and you) and choke. Also, do not give them chest compressions, mouth-to-mouth, the heimlich maneuver, an EpiPen, or anything else you think might be helpful, but isn’t.
5) Remember why you cleared the area around them on the floor? To make sure they didn’t hurt themselves on anything while convulsing. You can also expand this to include things like taking off their glasses, or removing that pen from their breast pocket. Maybe fold up a jacket or shirt to put under their head so it doesn’t smash against the hard ground. Make them comfortable.
6) Time the seizure. This can be very helpful if you remember to do it. The doctors will want to know how long it lasted. If is goes on for more than 5 minutes, call an ambulance. Otherwise, even though you are terrified, they probably don’t need medical attention. If you have kept their breathing steady and their body otherwise undamaged, they will come out of it, tired and possibly confused, but they will be much happier in your arms than in the back of an ambulance. Over 5 minutes is long for a seizure though. Feel free to call an ambulance at that time.
7) If you freak out and call an ambulance anyway, it’s okay. Better safe than sorry. But seriously, ambulances are expensive and insurance only covers so much. Take it from someone who will be paying medical bills for the next several lifetimes: if you can avoid calling the ambulance, avoid it.
That’s really all there is to it. As I said, if you follow rules 1 and 2, you should be okay. If you want to wait with the person and comfort them as they come out of it, that would be nice too. If you can help them get home, call them a cab, or call a friend or family member of theirs, do it. The most important thing is to stay calm. Which, as I know personally, is impossible. But try.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I try to generally be funny, and I know it is Tenor Tuesday, but I can’t write about music today, and I can’t be funny. What I can do is to hopefully educate people about what to do (and what not to do) in the case of a seizure. Please help me spread the word, and maybe we’ll save a few lives. Thanks.
To read what the CDC has to say about seizure care, click here.