Awareness advocates shed light on epilepsy
By James Foster
Some came just to be informed about epilepsy. Others were at Cascade Park to participate in an awareness walk or share their stories about the impact of the disease with others this past weekend.
Then, there were those like Deb LeDoux, who was there to support her granddaughter, Jessica LeDoux, who suffers with epilepsy.
The gathering was hosted by the Epilepsy Association of the Big Bend as an awareness event. Organizers called it “shining the light on epilepsy.”
The day featured free food, games, and guests speakers, while organizers said it was an opportunity to lay the groundwork for future epilepsy awareness events.
The LeDoux family was glad to be a part of the first awareness event for epilepsy victims.
The older LeDoux has witnessed the effects that epilepsy can have on a family. Being in a setting with others who have first-hand experiences with the disease seemed therapeutic for the family.
“It impacted all of us because her mom had to be with her all of the time,” her grandmother said. “She (Jessica) couldn’t even be in the bathtub by herself.
“It’s been emotional up and down and not just for us but for her as well. That’s why I’m here in support of her.”
Her granddaughter’s daily struggles with epilepsy have helped her gain a better understanding about the disease, LeDoux said.
“She has to wake up at the same time everyday and take an obscene amount of pills,” said LeDoux. “Sometimes sounds will trigger it. If it starts thundering and lightning on a regular day then she will have to go inside because it will set her off.”
Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder and it affects people of all ages. There are currently 3 million people in the United States suffering with the disease.
However, it is one of the most misunderstood disorders because symptoms aren’t easily recognized. That’s one reason why the event is necessary, said Mandy Bianchi, executive director of the Epilepsy Association of the Big Bend.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do ever since I’ve joined the agency,” said Bianchi. “We call it the shining the light on epilepsy walk so we can shine a light on a disease that may affect more people than you may know.
“We hope to be a light in the community and raise awareness and understand what people are going through and just be supportive” said Bianchi.
Deb Grissett, who works with epilepsy patients, praised the awareness efforts.
“The biggest lack of education is that people can have seizures or blank out and stare,” Grissett said. “We don’t recognize that and it may continue to get more serious and we never realize it.”