EPILEPSY is a condition of the brain which causes a person to become unconscious.
This happens for short periods of time where he or she will move about in an uncontrolled or sometimes in a violent way.
Such movements are called “seizures”.
They are caused when there is a sudden and involuntary surge of electrical activity in the brain.
No one knows why this happens and so there is currently no cure for epilepsy.
Whoever is experiencing a seizure goes through a motion that alters the way a person thinks, acts or feels.
Now anyone reading these few paragraphs may be terrified of the disease, especially if it were to affect them or their loved ones.
NOT Serene Low, however, who lives in Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur.
The 49-year old wife and mum with a 21-year old son is convinced that having epilepsy is neither a death nor life sentence.
“Life is still beautiful with epilepsy,” she told Wheel Power last week.
Serene is in the best position to know this fact because she has epilepsy herself.
She has had the condition for nearly 40 years. And in all that time, Serene has experienced more than a hundred attacks of seizure.
“The good news is today there are so many types of anti epileptic drugs that are available,” she says.
“With proper diagnosis and the right medication, seizures can be fairly well, if not, very well controlled,” added the prominent epileptic awareness activist whose blog www.epilepsylegacy.blogspot.com won a top health blogger award in February of this year.
Serene went on to point out that anti epileptic drugs are usually enough in preventing seizures in a majority of people who take pains to consume them regularly and as prescribed.
It has been estimated that at least 50% of all patients with epilepsy gain complete control of their seizures for substantial periods of time. Another 20% enjoy a significant reduction in the number of epileptic attacks.
“I have lived with epilepsy for most of my life and I’m fortunate to say my seizures are very well controlled.
“I would also like to point out that without epilepsy, I would not be the epilepsy activist that I am today.
“My experience with the disease has helped me stay connected and in touch with other leading epilepsy activists, caregivers and people with epilepsy (PwE) not only in the country but also around the world as well.”
Serene stresses that being an epileptic does not make her feel less different from anyone else.
In fact, her epilepsy blog has been a huge plus factor for her.
“It has opened a whole new dimension in my life,” she explains.
“I have loyal followers and readers – many of whom are PwE who leave inspiring and motivating comments for me.
“In fact, if not because of epilepsy, I would still be the shy and quiet person that I was.”
Serene had her first seizure as a child after a high fever. Then she stopped having seizures for about ten years until it recurred when she was 18 years old.
Her last seizure occurred in March of this year.
“Epileptic seizures can be extremely dangerous for PwE, especially when they happen in dangerous places,” explains Serene.
“Once it happened when I was swimming in Port Dickson where I almost drowned until someone rescued me in the nick of time.
“At another time, I was at a traffic light waiting to cross a busy street and the seizure caused me to fall down on the five foot way where I broke the whole upper front row of my teeth that needed extensive surgery at the dentist.”
Despite those difficult times, Serene says that life has to go on for everybody and especially for PwE.
“In my case, I have learned to look beyond epilepsy.
“The way I see it, the horizon beyond epilepsy is colourful, beautiful and captivating like the artworks of Vincent Van Gogh and his divine paintings.
“His paintings have inspired me in my artwork which is one of my greatest interests.”
Serene says that although her paintings may never find a place in art galleries, painting has become a very therapeutic past time for her.
Three weeks ago, she submitted 13 images of her paintings to Jim Chambliss, a reformed attorney who is currently doing research on the influence of human conditions such as epilepsy and migraine in art at the University of Melbourne and St. Vincent's Hospital in Australia.
Serene says she was delighted that her works were picked as part of a study by Chambliss entitled, “Epilepsy and Creativity.”
Serene who also suffers from chronic migraine says that not only is she thrilled to bits that she was the only Asian artist outside Australia to participate in the study but she feels particularly proud to be able to contribute through her life with epilepsy that will further enlighten researchers about the relation between the disease, migraine and art.
Chambliss, incidentally, is also a PwE.
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