Seizures alter soon-to-be mother’s daily life

The last trip Kim Okraszewski, 24, made to the grocery store forever altered her nightly routine.

Okraszewski was shopping alone at her local grocery shop when she had an epileptic seizure. A person trying to help gave her a jaw thrust.

“Being alone, people didn’t know what to do and the awareness out there is slightly scary because somebody gave me a jaw thrust, which you don’t need to do,” she said, adding her jaw was sore for weeks after.

Now, Okraszewski tries not to do much alone.

“Our nights are very limited, and one of us just can’t go home and go out because that’s happened,” she said of herself and her husband.

Okraszewski was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 17. After multiple tests there is no clear sign of why she has it. Epilepsy commonly starts in childhood and ends in childhood. The other most common onset of epilepsy is after the age of 65. Doctors can see that there is an erratic electrical discharge in her brainwave. For the first few years, Okraszewski only had one seizure a year, so she was in denial about the illness, she said.

“Sometimes I feel like they ruin my life and then I think about the people who have multiple a day,” she said. “I actually kind of feel lucky that I don’t have it as severely as other people.”

March is Epilepsy Awareness Month, with the third annual Purple Day campaign set for Sat., March 26. The goal is to educate the public and raise awareness with the public about epilepsy. Lise Schofield, the director of communications for Epilepsy Toronto, say the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance (CEA) has a new awareness initiative.

“There’s a Purple Day app on BlackBerry that just came out (Tuesday, March 22) and in the first two days of it being out, we had 15, 000 people download it, so that’s amazing,” Schofield said.

Okraszewski, four and a half months pregnant with her first child, says children born from mothers that have epilepsy have an increased chance of being born with spina bifida. She and her husband are preparing for the new addition to their family by taking different precautions than most new mothers, such as ensuring she won’t do anything alone. She says that she has no need for a change table because she’ll be changing the baby on the floor in case she were to have a seizure and then the baby won’t fall off of anything.

“As for nightly feedings, I’ll probably get a big comfy pillow, and sit on the floor so that I’m not in a chair and I don’t happen to throw the baby,” Okraszewski said.

Throughout this month in Toronto there have been events across the city to raise awareness. On Fri., March 25, there will be a free concert at Yonge-Dundas Square featuring some celebrities and local musicians.