Young Epilepsy Botswana (YEB) commemorated Purple Day last week Friday, under the theme: “Don’t Be Scared”.
The month-long commemoration every March is meant to increase global awareness of epilepsy. It seeks to dispel common myths and fears of the neurological disorder.
Giving the keynote address, on behalf of the Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness (MOHW), Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington, South Christian Greeff said that everyone is at risk of epilepsy.
“It is worth noting that everyone is at risk of this condition and the characteristics of seizures in epilepsy vary from person to person. They depend on where in the brain the disturbance first starts and how far it spreads,” Greeff said. Temporary symptoms may occur, such as loss of awareness or consciousness and disturbances of body movement which may include jerking of the body limbs, biting of the tongue and froth foaming in the mouth.
Purple Day was started by a fourth-grade student named Cassidy Megan from Nova Scotia after being diagnosed with epilepsy.
“Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is characterized as unprovoked seizures,” Greeff said. “Generally, 90% of epilepsy cases can be controlled by medication, which requires close adherence and monitoring in health professionals. Epilepsy medications used to treat epilepsy are available in our health facilities, including health posts,” he said on behalf of the assistant health minister.
YEB is a haven for those with the disorder in Botswana. As the society awaits statistics on epilepsy numbers from MOWH, they continue to raise awareness of the disorder.
Bame Motsomatshukudo public relations officer at YEB said the organization offers emotional support for those living with epilepsy. “We have been managing well to achieve our objectives by visiting those affected at the comfort of their homes, workplace and schools to educate learners and teachers,” she said.
Motsomatshukudo revealed that as of now, YEB is unable to do its outreach and awareness programmes because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “March is an epilepsy awareness month worldwide and is considered a purple month. Normally we have a yearly sponsored walk on March 26 to walk against the condition and give hope and support to those affected,” she said. “This will be the second year not having the walk because it attracts many people countrywide therefore Covid-19 protocols do not permit,” Motsomatshukudo said.
Having cancelled two of its annual sponsored walks, YEB has resorted to online means to continue spreading awareness. “We raise awareness by reaching out to people at schools, in the workplace, kgotla meetings, traffic jams and events. Since corona, we only use online platforms,” Motsomatshukudo revealed.
Explaining the “Don’t Be Scared” theme Motsomatshukudo said: “This basically means that when you see a person having a seizure, don’t run away as it is the norm here. Stay with the person, make sure they are fine and out of danger. Learn your seizure first aid.”