Epilepsy Training in the workplace

My good friend John or @jdugald on twitter has bravely volunteered to to share some of his personal experiences working with colleagues who have epilepsy!  He’s my first ever guest blogger and has made the promise to Talk About It!

I had to giggle at some of the training he had to partake in, particularly the part where he has to converse with a pair of plastic cheeks, but I also admire that he did not consider himself to manly to do so.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you John for being my very first guest blogger and for supporting Epilepsy Awareness. So, take it away John…

As November is National Epilepsy Awareness month, I am going to share my experiences of working with people who have Epilepsy.  Over the past few years I have supported individuals with learning disabilities on a one to one basis.  Did you know around 30% of people with a learning disability will also have Epilepsy?  I was about to work with one guy who had Epilepsy, but before I did I had to complete a course on Epilepsy and Rescue Medication. 

The course consisted of info on Epilepsy, some of which dispelled many of the myths Kirsty has already discussed.  We were shown videos on the many different types of seizures a person can have and what they can look like.  The majority of the day was spent discussing what to do if a person does not come out of a seizure or if they have one seizure after another also known as status epilepticus.  The people I worked with were prescribed Rectal Diazepam, in the event they went into status,  to ease them out of a seizure. At the end of the day the course tutor brought out a case and from it she pulled out a plastic bottom for us to practise on.

We would act out the scenario, check the date on the tube of Diazepam and start to talk the plastic backside, “Right Jimmy, you are going to feel a cold sensation at your bottom, but it’s going to help with the seizure.”  We then had to hold Jimmy’s cheeks together while the Diazepam took effect.  I should point out that there are other medications which are used now, which work as quickly as the Diazepam and are easier (and more dignified) to administer.

After completing the course I was a bit more confident in working with the chap.  I knew that his seizures were well controlled by medication. He did not take ‘Tonic Clonic’ seizures (the most recognisable seizures where your muscles stiffen then jerk uncontrollably) instead he kind of went rigid, and would fall to the ground.  There were a few occasions where he fell and broke bones, but because he had a very high pain threshold it could be hours before you realised, once the limb started to swell.  Pain did not seem to register with him.  Thankfully I was never on when this happened – I would have felt awful!!

His seizures were usually triggered by a loud noise or something unexpected happening (such as spilling a drink,) and would usually only last a few seconds.  He would come out of the seizure and like a cuddle and had a wee bit of a cry.  Within a few minutes he was back to his usual self, telling you he was going to ‘take your wife off you for one hundred quid.’

The only time I was worried, was when this bloke took a ‘Tonic Clonic’ seizure.  He had been hospitalised with Pneumonia and had to have his medication administered straight into his system.  For whatever reason, the hospital was unable to get his Epilepsy medication into his system.  Once this was rectified he was fine and I never saw him take another seizure like it.

I think all work places should offer sensitivity training and first aid geared towards their staff needs.  I have to say the training I received made me feel more confident I’d know what to do in the event one of my colleagues had a seizure in my presence.

Great post John! In the event you do not have diazepam or first aid training click on this list of things you can do if you ever encounter an adult or child having a seizure.

7 thoughts on “Epilepsy Training in the workplace

  1. I have no experience with Epilepsy, don’t know anyone who has it and have never scene anyone have an attack in real life. This is an excellent post as it certainly highlights a gap in my general knowledge as far as what I would do if it came to the crunch.
    I have been threatening to do a first aid course since my son was born, and I think that training in dealing with Epilepsy should run together with first aid so that you could be better prepared should anyone ever need any help.
    I must be honest and say I am relieved that there are alternate treatment options available now, not sure how effective I would be in a situation requiring medication in the rectal region!


    1. Thank you for being so candid about your lack of knowledge, I think that takes a lot of courage! I hope you had a chance to click on the what to do section of this blog post and now have a little extra knowledge on what to do in the event you’re present when someone is having a seizure.
      Generally, unless you’ve gone through training as John did, rectal drugs are given by a nurse or a paramedic upon arrival. The best thing you can do is keep a person safe, protect their head, turn them on their side, time the seizure, pay attention to what’s happening (eyes rolled, left side or right side jerking, etc..) and if they have multiple seizures or if it lasts more than 3 to five minutes call Emergency services! Thanks for commenting! xx


  2. Hi Alethea,

    it was certainly very useful for myself. I was very lucky that the organisation i work for have an Epilepsy research centre, and provided excellent training.

    I should have said that I never once had to administer the rectal diazepam.

    Kirsten will correct me if i’m wrong but I think it’s getting to be less commonly used now! (here in the UK anyway) Its not very practical if you are with someone who is wheelchair bound, or discreet if you’re out and about!!

    I reckon if it came to it you would just get on with it.


  3. As someone who has photo sensitive epilepsy this was
    Such an informative post to read.
    Awareness needs to be raised on many levels
    As too many people know too little about
    The condition. I am unable to drive due to
    The last year being fraught with seizures but
    Have recently had my meds changed from
    Tegretol to Keppra. Fingers very much

    CJ xx


  4. Krystal Meg is on Keppra and has had great results with it! She was finally able to come off of Phenobarbital because of the Keppra. We had tried many times (with the doctor) to wean her before, two times which led to her being air-lifted to a children’s hospital because she went into status epilepticus and one time that led to a severe hive reaction to tryleptol. So you can imagine we were nervous to try again, but decided to try Keppra and this time it was very successful and she’s been pretty much seizure free for three years! Fingers crossed that you have the same success with it! xx


  5. I am on keppra and so far so good! only one breakthrough seizure in 2 years! Thanks for this post.. I am also hosting Epilepsy Awareness on my blog… come check it out!


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