Category: Amazon.comFalling Down Funny BookMark HawkinsSeizures Comments: 3 comments

I just watched an episode of the television show “House.” A patient started having a seizure and a character named Dr. Chase yelled, “Hold him down.” I thought, “Really? That’s what you would do? And you’re supposed to be a doctor?” I am not a doctor. Nor do I play one on TV. But as an epileptic, I know you do not hold down a patient having a seizure, even on a TV show.

I am willing to suspend a little disbelief here for the purposes of enjoying the show. I certainly understand that TV characters and stories need to be interesting or the show gets boring. Hugh Laurie (Dr. House) has to be a little insane to make people watch the show. Even ‘Reality TV’ is not reality. Nevertheless, the public perception of how to deal with epilepsy is, at least in part, shaped by what people see on TV.

According to Time Magazine, medical shows used incorrect or “harmful” procedures in the treatment of seizures 71% of the time (1). That means, since the average person will rarely see a seizure in real life, when someone sees a seizure three out of four times the person helping them is doing it wrong. No wonder people are still jamming wallets in our mouths.

But then epileptics themselves are never really characterized well on TV. Jennie F. Kerson wrote an excellent article for Brown University in which she watched every single film in which a seizure was depicted (2). Her findings were very interesting.

People suffering from seizures were viewed as “sad” and “victims.” Often there was a link between the seizures and “psychiatric difficulty.” Most importantly, epileptics are ALWAYS viewed as “flawed.” Despite advancements in medicine, “Epilepsy continues to be distorted, sensationalized and presented in the most frightening and/or depressing ways.”

People have told me that my blog is “angry.” They wonder why I make a big deal about epilepsy. Then I turn on “House,” and some poor guy having a seizure gets the “hold him down” treatment. I know, I know: It didn’t happen. But some day, somewhere down the road, I’m going to fall down again and the only other guy in the room is going to hold ME down. Because that is the only thing he knows. Because he “heard it somewhere,” or he “saw it on TV.”

Post Script: I have received several complaints asking me, “Well. So what SHOULD I do if I see a seizure?” I am not a doctor but this is a link to the epilepsy foundation’s recommendations:


1 – http://healthland.time.com/2010/02/15/what-medical-tv-shows-get-wrong-about-seizures/
2 – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1528-1157.1999.tb00836.x/asset/j.1528-1157.1999.tb00836.x.pdf;jsessionid=A2ACA7329ED9238ACF3F259DD0C12DF0.f01t02?v=1&t=hnizbriv&s=53be230abab8e9ba70c24a7d2595a4fce9ef9d52

3 comments to LOOK! I’M ON TV

  • Wayne  says:

    Would someone please tell the world it is impossible to swallow your tongue. Never put something in someone’s mouth having a seizure. NEVER!!!!! The fallacies portrayed on TV may seem just an inconvenience to some but it cost me front teeth. I mean people might mean well but how can people be that stupid?

    • Mark Hawkins  says:

      I hear you, Wayne – and sorry for your pain, brother.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I added a link for the epilepsy foundation’s recommends for things one should do, but then i believe that people reading my blog are people who already know what to do. Not sure this is really the place.

      I have had people do some pretty stupid things to me as well but all we can do is continue to speak, educate and be understanding of a world that has been filled with misinformation.

      Thanks again for your support.


  • Sam Inglese  says:

    Don’t I know it Wayne. I had a first appointment w/a GM 10ys. ago and the man asked me what I carried w/me.. I was shocked and said you mean to put in my mouth for an attack? And he said yes. I said “I will give you $500 if you swallow your tongue and you know why you can’t?” He got an attitude and said “Why don’t you tell me”. I opened my mouth and said “because it is attached on the bottom” and continued to educate him about the situation before walking out. He still wanted $350 for the first appntmnt. The AMA said as a GM he was not required to know anything more about Epilepsy than what he learned in school years past. I am sorry for what happened to you Wayne. My next documentary intends to attract and educate the general public if funds are ever accrued. It can be reviewed on KickStarter under “GREETING EPILEPSY”.

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