Seizure or possessed by the jinns?
One minute I was having a nice cup of tea with an old friend I have not met for many years and next minute I saw her plunged on the floor with a sudden seizure. Being a qualified first aider, I knew instantly what to do which was to let her have her seizure but ensure that the chair or any other object near her was moved away so her body would not collide with it during the seizure. Luckily there was a cushion on the chair so I pulled it off quickly and placed in gently under her head. I could hear her breath so I knew she was okay. Just had to stay calm during the seizure and be there for her. At this point entire family gathered around and were panicking like mad, her mum tried to get close and hug her but I stopped her and took her away by holding her. It was a traumatic time for all family members; no one knew what was going on? The episode lasted for like 30 seconds or so but it really felt like an eternity. It took me back to the time when my young son had fibril convulsion due to high temperature. It was confusing as hell to see my little baby break down into a fit and I didn’t know what to do?
I knew what to do now as I had been trained for such events. So much went through my head in that 30 seconds which I don’t remember much but what I do remember and which is the reason that compelled me to write this blog was a crude comment made by some family member, or it could have been one of the maid? I don’t remember seeing the face but remember their voice which kind of punched me hard in the gut and stayed there. “Is main jinn agya hay (she is possessed by a spirit)”.
I wasn’t bothered to turn around and look for that ignorant person as this was neither the right time nor the place to correct someone’s misconception about a well-known disease. For starters I was clueless myself about my friend’s medical history so it was important that she was taken care of at that point. When the seizure eased off and my friend was little calmer, I rolled her on her side so she could breathe easily. When she regained consciousness, I helped her to sit up slowly and then her mother and sisters rushed to help so we gently lifted her together and walked her to a comfortable sofa. By then someone had gone and collected a Doctor and now they were trying to find out what had happened? I spoke to the doctor briefly and filled him in with what had happened. It was obvious to both of us that my friend had an epileptic seizure, which needed further investigation. I left it to the family and made my way back home.
Looking back on the incident, what stuck to my mind was that remark made by someone which actually made me think. It was not the fault of that person as they were probably never aware of this disease? It was just pure ignorance and lack of correct information, so I think it’s high time we start raising awareness of this disease and try to break down the stigma that is surrounding its symptoms. It is probably causing more harm psychologically to the patient for being stigmatised than actual from the disease. I have spoken to few people, esp. from villages’ area and they have similar stories to tell. Majority of the cases when someone has fits for unknown reasons, sadly they are taken to some spiritual healer rather than a medical practitioner. This is a bleak picture of ignorance in rural areas. I don’t know how it varies in urban places but I hope it is far better than their lesser privileged countrymen.
Seizure is a symptom that could be brought on by any number of reasons. One of the major diseases that cause seizures is known as Epilepsy. Others reasons include brain tumour or any other condition that affects the brain function; such as head injury, high temperature, reduced oxygen level to brain etc. are few to name. It’s a state where brain gets overstimulated and its electrical impulses reach a point where the messages to whole body become distorted and make no sense. This then switches off the messages and leaves the body without any communication with the brain. This causes the body to shake uncontrollably until the brain’s electrical activity reduces and returns to normal. While body is shaking, the person seems like to be under control of something else which is possibly the reason for people to come up with misconception of being possessed. This misconception needs to be put right as its causing more heartache than needed. Instead of patient getting the treatment required, they get stigmatised with horrendous perceptions and may end up suffering more for rest of their lives.
In many cases, poor sufferer is taken to some mumbo jumbo spiritual healer who supposedly tries to beat the spirit out of the patient’s body. Few stories that I heard were too heart breaking and really made me feel quiet depressed to say the least. No doubt these sufferers are made to suffer much more when their condition is misunderstood and mistreated. This must be changed and it should be done by raising awareness and educating people with such diseases that may end up causing seizures. Also information regarding how to deal with a person through their seizure must be made public at a larger level. Some people on seeing sufferer having a seizure, unknowingly tries to hold the person down which can be very bad for the sufferer.
When a person is having a seizure, its utmost important that you do not try to move their body, just ensure that they are breathing and comfortable. Sometimes the shaking can be extremely violent, in such cases make sure there is nothing close by that may cause an injury to the patient. Remain calm around the patient and let them know you are there with them. Always call upon a medical practitioner for help just in case any complication arises. Anyone who has a seizure must consult with a doctor and reasons must be sought for onset of their fits. Sometime a simple lifestyle change may help, but other time more serious treatment might be the way. Either way a correct diagnosis or treatment is paramount for the health of the patient. If it goes undiagnosed, it will only make the symptoms worse and will create more grief for the patient as well as for the family members.
It has to be drilled into the public that seizures are a cause of an illness or a disease. And those seizures are merely symptoms and it’s very important the reasons for seizures are found and treated. Sometimes people are even scared to tell others about their medical history. This is also stigmatising the disease which should be combated too. Epilepsy in particular is a disease that causes seizures and I have been shocked to find that some people will actually hide this fact from others, such as their friends or employers in particular. This is concerning because if the sufferer ends up having a seizure and people around them aren’t aware then it could also become much worse than it actually is. On other hand, people who know any sufferer of such disease should also show compassion towards the sufferer but that will only be possible if people are informed about this condition.
Public awareness is paramount fore mostly to remove the awful misconception about the seizures. A big effort is required to change this perception especially in rural areas where horrendous crimes are committed against poor sufferers in the hands of cowboy spiritual healers. This must be stopped and its only possible through correct public awareness and possibly trying to get the well know sufferers to speak up about their disease. This will also help in some ways removing the stigma attached to these symptoms.
By Dr. Chand Zahid