Category: Uncategorized Comments: 10 comments

Once a week I Google “Seizure” and “News” and see what I get. Most of the time, the results are pretty predictable. Someone is touting a new product for epilepsy. Someone is trying to get support for a new medical marijuana bill. Someone makes the local news because some annoying story about how they were mistreated or fired over epilepsy. However, once in a while I find something completely unexpected.

Maggie O’Conner was walking her dog in Cochester, England, when she had a seizure. It happens. As an epileptic I am sympathetic. But the two people who pulled out their iphones to watch her and make fun of her were apparently not so sympathetic (1).

Ms. O’Conner woke up to see the two men filming her. She was covered in urine and blood (she had bitten her tongue) and was understandably embarrassed. So she ran away. The last thing she heard was, “She fucking pissed herself. Ha. (2)” When she went to the police for help she was told, “no offence has been committed. (Ibid)”

As citizens, we are not obligated to help those in need. I understand that. That would be a dangerous slope to go down, especially in a litigious society such as ours. To require a doctor to give help to somehow who might not, in fact, want help is not what I want. But to allow people to video our most private matters – is that not exactly what governments are arguing about with the Snowden case? The government’s private matters are private – but it is perfectly all right if ours are up for grabs?

Which brings me to my more personal issue with this case. Why is epilepsy such a ripe fodder for comedy? People can argue all day “everything is up for grabs.” I am a professional comedian and I agree that in the right light, everything, in fact, makes for good comedy. But preying upon epileptics right now seems to be “cool.”

Recently, an individual came into an online epilepsy support group and posted strobing lights, an action designed to trigger seizures (5). Keep in mind that seizures themselves can kill. Granted, it’s rare; but despite what people tell you, “Sudden Unexpected Death from Seizures,” not driving and accidents, is the number-one killer of epileptics (3) and almost 10,000 people a year die from SUDEP (4). It is a real concern for anyone who has seizures.

Were people outraged or offended by this person who posted the strobe lights amidst an epilepsy support group? Nope. The masses thought it was funny (6). People even claimed to be epileptic and said, “this wouldn’t bother me,” or “I have epilepsy or it’s funny” and “It’s hilarious.” I should point out at this juncture that no epileptic would ever make a comment like that.

I was working with a comedian last week (he said I could use this story if I left his name out) and like many before him, he dropped in a line during his show that included “like an epileptic.” I talked about it with him afterwards and he said there is an accepted image in society that “an epileptic” means flopping around the floor uncontrollably. I couldn’t really argue with that, but when I informed him that I was an epileptic, he suddenly became visibly uncomfortable. He said he would not use the line anymore. He said it never occurred to him that it might, in fact, be offensive to someone who had epilepsy. Actually meeting a person with epilepsy brought that point home to him.

We, as epileptics, are the subject of ridicule worldwide. So much so that people think it is socially acceptable to come into our space, into a support group – a place where people having real problems dealing with the world gather — and attempt to induce seizures simply because they believe that is “funny.” People throw strobe lights in front of us and society’s reaction is: “Get a sense of humor.” I have a sense of humor but if I fired a loaded gun into a crowded room, which is essentially what this prankster did, I would be arrested. I couldn’t defend my actions simply by saying, “Well, I don’t think anyone died.”

It’s hard enough just getting through the day without people laughing and pointing at us. If we fall down, we sure don’t want people holding a strobe light in front of us yelling, “do it again.” But that’s what it’s like these days when you’re falling down.

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10 comments to SEIZURES ARE A JOKE

  • Chris Arceneaux  says:

    We are NOT “epileptic”, we have epilepsy!

    • Belle Leal  says:

      We are epileptics if we have epilepsy

      • matt  says:

        agreed with Belle, I am epileptic, diagnosed with epilepsy, therefore I am epileptic and I am a person with epilepsy. I fail to see the dilemma here. I suppose my medical ID should be engraved “I am a person with epilepsy” so the first responders don’t hurt my feelings?!?!?!?! Its engraved short and sweet inluding the word epilepsy, my med info., and emgcy Ph#. I know the 911 peeps will know i’m epileptic.

        • Mark Hawkins  says:

          Everybody has their own path to walk. I certainly would never disagree with you. I am glad you have made your peace with it and are comfortable with your life. Seizures are different for everyone, I suppose…

  • Laura H. Lones  says:

    I am sharing with my friends…loving your blog…thanks for helping others to see and maybe think before they laugh at us EPILEPTICS!!!

  • Laura J. Lones  says:

    I am sharing with my friends…loving your blog…thanks for helping others to see and maybe think before they laugh at us EPILEPTICS!!!

  • Belle Leal  says:

    Your right I almost died on Christmas because of epilepsy and people start making jokes about it and start making fun of me

    • Mark Hawkins  says:

      it’s very frustrating when it happens. so sorry you went through that.

      • Belle Leal  says:

        Thanks I’m glad there’s people who understand me

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