Little Eric “Deuce” Eaddy was 14 months old when his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he grew taut and still one Saturday morning, two years ago.
“When paramedics got here and put him in the [ambulance] they were trying to put an IV line in him…His body, from having the seizure, was clenched so tight, that they couldn’t get an IV into his vein,” said Deuce’s mother, Tamikko, 39. “He was almost lifeless. They were poking him to get a response out of him. He wouldn’t cry. There was nothing.”
After a harrowing ride to Children’s Hospital, his parents were told that doctors found no immediate cause for the seizure Deuce had suffered.
Two months later, the day before he was scheduled to head back to the hospital for tests, the same scenario played out. Deuce had awakened, taken a bottle, and then fallen asleep on his father’s chest. Just like before, he lost consciousness. Emergency medical personnel who responded to a 911 call placed by his father, Eric Eaddy Sr., could not revive him in the ambulance.
This time, doctors diagnosed Deuce with complex partial seizures, a form of epilepsy that affects the right temporal area of the brain.
On Saturday, March 22, the Epilepsy Foundation of America will sponsor its annual National Walk for Epilepsy on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The event will serve as a fundraiser to support epilepsy research to help find a cure for suffers like Deuce, now 3.
There will be a pre-walk rally at 8:30 a.m. The walk is scheduled from 9 a.m. to about 10:30 a.m. and will be followed by post-walk activities for children, families and adults.
“It’s one of the things we’re doing to get the word out, so that the general public is aware of epilepsy and won’t stigmatize those with the condition,” said Jonese Holloway, a spokeswoman for the Epilepsy Foundation of America, based in Landover. “We’re doing the walk to spread general awareness, as well as raise the funds to find a cure for the condition.”
About 65 million people are affected by epilepsy around the world, including 3 million in the United States. About 350,000 African Americans have been diagnosed with the condition, but physicians believe many more may suffer undiagnosed.
“There is no particular demographic that has a higher risk of epilepsy,” Holloway said. “It can get anyone anywhere anytime and at any age.”
According to experts, epilepsy is a group of many types of long-term neurological disorders that are characterized by seizure activity. Types of epilepsy include benign focal epilepsy, which develops in infants and toddlers; juvenile absence epilepsy, which also most often affects children; and temporal lobe epilepsy, which is the most common form of epilepsy in adults. Research shows that one in 10 people in the United States will have a seizure at some point.
Seizures are unpredictable and often occur without warning. There are factors, however, that can contribute: head trauma, concussions, tumors and strokes. Lights and sudden noises can set off seizures in people with certain types of epilepsy.
People who have witnessed a friend or loved one seizing often feel fear and helplessness. Once, people with someone who was seizing were encouraged to place a spoon or other object in their mouth to prevent them from biting their tongue.
Doctors now say to call 911, clear away anything that may injure the seizing person should they bump into it, gently protect their head if necessary but let the seizure run its course.
Tamikko Eaddy described the terror she felt watching her son. Deuce reached “status epilepticus,” meaning that he seized for upward of 15 minutes.
“I’m sitting there with my husband and the one thing that I know to do when you can’t do anything else is pray,” she said. “So I lay my head on [Deuce’s] chest and put my hand on his head. I put in a prayer and at that moment I got a little ‘Wah’ out of him. That let me know life was still there.”
According to Holloway, people come from around the country to support the epilepsy walk. Local music acts, as well as school bands, will be playing to pep up the walkers at the start and finish lines.
“I would encourage people to join the fight, get involved and support families, caregivers, or those taking care of loved ones who are impacted by this condition” Holloway said. “Knowing that this will impact one in every 26 Americans says that this is something that we all need to get behind—helping to control and stop epilepsy.”
Late registration for the National Walk or Epilepsy is available through March 21. For more information, visit walkforepilepsy.org, sign on to #EpilepsyWalk@EpilepsyFdn on Twitter, check out the Epilepsy Foundation’s Facebook page or call 1-866-433-9255.
For information about epilepsy and seizures, including doctors and medications to treat the condition, visit epilepsy.com.