I shake, I fall, I die: The epileptic scare

(“I fall, I shake, I die” is a Hotline documentary about Epilepsy airing at 8:30am on Thursday and 7:00pm on the Joy News channel on MultiTV)

A neatly dressed woman in her twenties, wearing a pair of black shoes with stiletto heels walks down the road with her colleagues after work. Within minutes, she falls flat on the tarred road, shaking, wobbling and foaming. Her face and wrists are bruised with rivulets of blood running down her cheeks into her ears. She lies in a supine position.

Her colleagues think she hit her leg against an object. But one of them knows their fallen friend too well to be ignorant about the symptoms of her debilitating medical condition: epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a common but complicated disease of the brain. It makes its victims fall and wobble as if they were under a demonic attack. The unfortunate ones fall and may suffer various injuries. They sometimes die. In the African society, it’s considered by some as a demonic disease.

Epilepsy doesn’t care about the state and location of its victims. It can spoil great moments.

In the latest Joy FM documentary titled, ‘I fall, I shake, I die’, Seth Kwame Boateng explores how although this medical condition is so prevalent in Ghana but it’s hardly talked about.

For epileptic patients, the disease brings with it enormous trauma, stigmatization and worry.

It is said that when life throws eggs at you; make omelets, but what do you do when life gives you epilepsy, the chronic non-communicable disorder of the brain which can affect people of all ages. It is referred to as epilepsy, seizures or fits.

Epileptic patients are not aware of their environment during seizures.

‘When the sickness comes I don’t know. When I become conscious and they tell me I did this or that I don’t know,’ 32-year-old epileptic patient Fatima Takarimu says.

And this abnormal behavior has changed Fatima’s life forever. She suddenly began to suffer violent seizures – seizures which would drag her into an embarrassing convulsion.

This has made Fatima a very shy person, making it difficult for her to  mingle with people. Fatima’s life following the multiple seizures has been full of disappointments. This disappointment started when her desire of being a teacher came to an abrupt end.  

And just like her condition, many other things in her life have suffered one form of unfortunate seizure or another. And according to her auntie Emelia Awuni the most painful of the episodes of disappointments has been from men whom she falls in love with.  They propose, do the knocking rites but abandon the marriage plans when they realize Fatima is epileptic.

Several factors cause person’s with epilepsy to fall, salivate and shake as Dr Badoe, head of neurology and developmental services at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, explains.

He says epilepsy is one of the most neglected and grossly misunderstood areas of our health.

Statistics suggests over 65 million people are epileptic. The World Health Organization however says 50 million people worldwide are suffering from the disease and nearly 80% of the people with epilepsy are found in developing countries like Ghana. The World Health Organization says on the African continent it affects directly ten million people directly. Still in Africa, about nine out of ten people with epilepsy go untreated.

People with epilepsy and their families suffer from stigma and discrimination in many parts of the world including Ghana.

Aside getting the disease through birth and injury, doctors say infections like meningitis, HIV and tape worms can all lead to epilepsy.

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