Epilepsy affects 1 out of every 100 children and adults. It is entirely possible to live with this disease, but it is necessary to understand its manifestations, and to seek appropriate care.
During the past year, the world has been transfixed by the coronavirus. We all depend upon the ability of our healthcare systems to manage the pandemic, but these systems must also contend with many other serious illnesses, including epilepsy. Rambam Health Care Campus is home to one of the country’s leading epilepsy centers – the Zukier Family Comprehensive Epilepsy Center of Excellence, located in Rambam’s Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital. Under the leadership of Professor Yitzhak Shiller, Deputy Director, Department of Neurology and Head of the Epilepsy Service, and Professor Mony Benifla, Director, Unit of Pediatric Neurosurgery and Dr. Moshe Herskovitz, Attending Physician in the Department of Neurology, the Center’s professional team includes physician specialists and other experts in the care of epilepsy patients. All are committed to treating not only the physical aspects of the disease, but the psychological and social ramifications as well.
The center works assiduously to increase community awareness of epilepsy. Working closely with the Haifa Municipality and the Haifa Regional Department of Education, the center has implemented a program to provide the public with a better understanding of the disease and to minimize misperceptions about epilepsy and those who suffer from it. The program focuses on three things: health, education, and community. Physicians and educators regularly visit schools and community centers, guide educational activities, and distribute informational brochures.
Rambam recently marked International Epilepsy Day, a special event that promotes awareness of epilepsy in many countries around the world. In honor of the event, an educational stand was set up by Aviva Feldman Bahagi, a leading epilepsy activist who coordinates with Rambam on epilepsy education, and Adi Vaknin Abiram, author of “Aura," a book that describes her personal experiences in dealing with epilepsy. Informational materials were made available to the large crowds who visited the stand.
Over the past year, the center’s medical teams adapted to coronavirus restrictions and expanded educational activities, built new professional relationships, and strengthened existing relationships using Zoom and social media. Now that Ministry of Health rules have been relaxed, multiple meetings and educational sessions with local authorities, rehabilitation centers, and youth groups have already taken place and many more are planned.
The Epilepsy Center saw no reduction in patient numbers in 2020, despite coronavirus restrictions. It has continued to provide comprehensive clinical services to epilepsy patients, including complex brain surgeries, advanced stimulation therapy, and other cutting-edge treatments, especially for those patients for whom conventional treatments have been ineffective.
Here are five little known facts about epilepsy:
- The tongue is not swallowed during times of a seizure, and efforts should not be made pull the tongue or force open the person’s mouth.
- The most common attacks (seizures) involve a brief period during which the person is unaware of his or her surroundings for several seconds.
- If the epileptic seizure does not exceed five minutes, there is no need to call an ambulance.
- In Israel, Knesset members, prominent business leaders, and well-known artists suffer from epilepsy.
- The majority of people afflicted with epilepsy do not experience epileptic seizures because of effective medications.