As reported on the third Jett Travolta, 16 year old son of John Travolta, died. They weren’t sure if it was a head trauma or from the history of seizures that he had but it has been confirmed by an autopsy that he died of a seizure. You might be surprised how many people are completely ignorant of what a seizure is. Being an expert of 38 years, I have decided to give you the 411. And bust some myths in the process.
First what a seizure is. A seizure is an overload of the brain sending out too many messages to various parts of the body at the same time. Therefore everytime you have a seizure you lose brain cells. Seizures are serious but can be controlled with medication called anticonvulsants.
What seizures are not-they are not a sign of retardation. Epileptics have normal intelligence and a few range higher than average in terms of intelligence. A seizure is a physical ailment, no different than heart disease or asthma. I know the stigma of seizures and epilepsy. For in high school, I was put in special ed even though I didn’t need it in order for the school to get additional money for me. Most epileptics can lead pretty normal lives and if they didn’t tell you they were epileptic you wouldn’t know. [I will be using the term epileptics to describes all groups of people who suffer from chronic seizure whether they have been diagnosed as that or with some other disease that also suffer from seizures. Jett had Kawasaki Syndrome, which I am unfamiliar. However, I am familiar with seizures and epilepsy and so to make it easier I will just refer his case under the general heading of “epilepsy.” ]
Next these are things not to do when someone has a seizure:
1) Stick a spoon in their mouth. There is an old wives tale that says they will swallow their tongue if you don’t. YOU CANNOT SWALLOW YOUR OWN TONGUE!!!! I have bitten the crap out of my tongue to the point where it hurt to even eat but I have never bitten it off and I have never swallowed my tongue. If I hear of you putting a spoon in someone’s mouth while they are seizing, I will hunt you down and force a spoon in yours and see how you like it. You can actually injure someone by doing that! DON’T EVER PUT A SPOON IN SOMEONE’S MOUTH WHEN THEY ARE SEIZING……EVER!!!!! I hope that is clear enough.
2) Hold them down while they are seizing. You can move things that will injure them out of the way, you can loosen tight clothing but don’t ever hold them down. This can also cause injury. Let the seizure take its course, you do more damage by trying to stop it then you do by simply letting the person be.
What to do:
1) Time the seizure. Most seizures are a minute or less. If it starts going over two minutes, you need to be calling 911. Two minutes is a long time for your brain to be frying itself. Of course, if you see someone out in public having a seizure, you call 911 regardless and then stay by that person and time the seizure. So you can tell the paramedics how long it lasted when they get there. [I met the nicest paramedic the last time I seized, cute too. He was even Mormon. If my brain wasn’t half fried then I would’ve gotten his number. LOL. But who wants to go out with a woman who spends time flailing around like a dead fish? Oh well such is life.]
2) Loosen their clothing. Okay this is no time for you to turn into a perv and start stripping the person. Loosen clothing means you unbutton the top button to make sure they have enough air. Remove anything that might be on their face like glasses. Other than that you don’t need to do much else. You don’t try to move the person if there is an object in their way but try to move the object out of their way.
3) When the person awakes, you ask question to see about their cognitive abilities. Ask their name, address, who is the president, things like that. If they say Bush they might be in denial about Barack so don’t hold it against them. You check for any lacerations and take care of those after they come out. Make sure they take their meds (because if they are like me, they probably haven’t taken it in a while) and allow them to rest. They are liable to be in a lot of pain afterwards, so let them recover.
The different type of seizures:
I will be using the names I knew growing up, they have since changed them all but I am not learning a bunch of new names when the old ones do just fine.
Grand mal-that is the kind where your entire body is seizing. You arms, legs, your eggs roll back in your head and they are rigid, jerky movements. These are the kind most people think of when they think of seizure.
Petit mal-this is basically a staring spell. You can be talking, stop in mid sentence, stare off for a few seconds and then pick up where you left off and if no one tells you, you won’t even know you had a seizure. They are very brief in nature and many a times people mistake it for inattention or daydreaming when it is not.
Psychomotor seizure-this is a rather frightening one. Because you can actually walk and be somewhat vocal during this one. It is a more “violent” one though the violence is unintentional. But the person will walk with their arms swinging, having no control over them. Their walking is also not controlled. The best thing to do is make sure they are not going bump into anything if you can without getting hit and if you are out in public and it happens make sure no one tries to take them down. Explain it is a seizure and just to give them some room. More than one epileptic has been taken down and arrested for suspicion of drugs because of this type of seizure.
Status epilepticus-this is one continuous seizure. You go in and you come out then you go back in again. A status epilepticus is the most fatal of seizure and typically a drug addict is more likely to die from this than an epileptic. John Belushi died from a status epiletpticus. As a baby I was constantly seizing. However, I did stop in between the first one and the next one so it wasn’t a status epilepticus. With a status epilepticus you don’t regain consciousness in between. The longer the seizure is, the more likely you are seeing a status epilepticus, which is why it is important to time them.
There is also the Jacksonian seizure, but I don’t know much about that one. In any case, this is a rough review of seizures and what to do and what not to do. I hope this helps. God bless you Jett, you are now free from it all!