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Sherri McMahan of White Heath found out recently how a little education can work wonders. In her case, it involved passing on tips on handling epileptic episodes to her daughter’s employer.
That daughter, Mackenzie Taylor, was diagnosed with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy in the summer of 2010, about the same time she began working at McDonald’s in Monticello. As soon as Sherri found out, she informed management and educated them on the neurological ailment and the keys to providing care should a seizure occur.
It paid dividends when McDonald’s General Manager Penny Nunn lent aid to a passerby who collapsed outside the restaurant on Nov. 5.
“We were doing a lot check, picking up garbage when I heard someone yell ‘help.’ I turned around and there was a man on the ground. When I got there he was having a seizure,” said Nunn.
Her first task in responding? Don’t panic.
“I let him know that help was on the way (911 had been called), things were O.K., and that he was going to be all right,” she added.
After she was sure the man would be all right, Nunn thought of McMahan and the education she had received on epilepsy, which affects 2.2 million Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I sent her (McMahan) a text message – kind of a sappy one – thanking her for her knowledge,” added the local restaurant manager. “Not only did she give me knowledge to help her children, but the knowledge carried on to strangers.” Mackenzie’s older brother Skyler Taylor also worked for McDonald’s from 2009 to 2001, and was also diagnosed with epilepsy in 2010.
McMahon got the (text) message.
“It was just nice to know that they were able to help someone else. Before my kids were diagnosed, I knew nothing about epilepsy,” said McMahon.
That training has also helped McMahon spread the word on what epilepsy is – and what it is not.
“They have to be careful about what they do, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be normal kids. Once they get their medication adjusted properly they can actually lead a normal life,” she said.
Mackenzie, now 19, said the disorder “does and doesn’t” hold her back. For now she cannot drive, but it doesn’t stop her from working about 35 hours per week.
When helping someone with a seizure, McMahon also said it is important not to give in to the impulse to hold them down. In addition, objects should not be placed in their mouths – a practice that was common in the past.
“They used to say to put a tongue depressor or something in their mouth to keep them from swallowing their tongue. But with the force they bite down with they can actually break it, and then it becomes a choking hazard,” said McMahan.
For Nunn, helping the passerby wasn’t a huge deal, once she had the training.
“Someone needed help, so we ran,” she said.
And in a time of thanks, McMahan is just grateful “in even the smallest of ways we can touch someone else’s lives and never even realize it.”
Facts about epilepsy
Some facts about epilepsy, from the Epilepsy Foundation. Find out more at www.epilepsyfoundation.org.
• Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the United States, behind migraines, strokes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
• An estimated 2.2 million Americans are affected by epilepsy, including 300,000 under the age of 15 years old. An estimated 65 million worldwide are thought to suffer from the neurological disorder.
• Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy.
• Seizures occur when clusters of nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally, which may briefly alter a person’s consciousness, movements or actions.
• November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month
When providing first aid for those suffering a seizure:
• Call 911
• Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby
• Don’t hold the person down
• Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp
• Loosen ties or anything around the neck that could make breathing difficult
• Turn him or her gently to one side
• Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped
• Stay on hand until the seizure ends naturally
• Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home