Recent History – 2000
March 14, 2000, By Christine Podmore, Daily News Staff
March is Epilepsy Month across Canada and Dawson Creek’s epilepsy counsellor Bob Clapp is striving to educate the public of the neurological disorder.
There are 20,000 people in northern Alberta, northern B.C., and the N.W.T. with epilepsy, which translates to more cases than multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, tuberculosis, and cancer combined. Despite these numbers, Clapp says, the general public does not seem to know or understand much about the chronic condition.
“I want to wake people up to the seriousness of epilepsy,” said Clapp. “You never know who you’ll run into with epilepsy.”
Popular myths about the condition are that it is a disease or that it is contagious. Neither is true, in fact it is a disorder of the nervous system which is characterized by convulsions and often unconsciousness. People expect seizures to be a violent episode where a person collapses into violent convulsions but it is possible they have witnessed a seizure and not even noticed.
There are several types of seizures, some may consist of a blank stare and the person may just seem disorientated, whereas others may consist of muscle jerks and unconsciousness.
Seizures may last a brief moment or up to a few minutes but, unless they are continuous, one following another, the individual may come out of a seizure requiring little aid.
Clapp says that if you are informed and know the signs of a seizure you can better help those with epilepsy. Calling an ambulance is rarely necessary, but those in a seizure do require some type of assistance.
“Turn the person on their side, put something behind their head so they don’t crack it on the ground, and get down on the floor, putting your knee behind their back,” suggests Clapp.
If seizures last longer than five minutes, call for help.
Epilepsy can be controlled by drugs but not cured. The medication is expensive and the side-effects of the drugs add to the complexity of living with the disorder. Clapp is fundraising throughout the year, with a special focus on this month, for the Epilepsy Association.
“Most people don’t care unless it happens to them, or someone close to them,” says Clapp. “Just because we are different, don’t turn your back on us.”
Not only does Clapp hope for financial donations, he would be grateful to those willing to help out by volunteering also. The more people that are involved, the more aware the community will become.
Currently, Clapp must pay for all the literature he receives from the Epilepsy Association and if he does not receive the support of the community he will be forced to end his counselling work.
With a belief of the strength in numbers, the lung, heart and alzheimer’s associations will also be fundraising with Clapp during March. With a significant donation, Clapp will return the gift with a T-shirt, cap or one of many other items.
Clapp is the only counsellor north of Kelowna in B.C., and north of Edmonton in Alberta, the loss of his services to the area would be detrimental to those individuals that depend on him. Clapp helps epileptics receive the attention they need medically and otherwise so they may deal with their disorder.
“Participation goes a lot further than finance,” said Clapp. “It shows compassion, and the ability to be ready and able to help.”
Clapp will be at the Dawson Creek Mall throughout the days of March 15 to 19, with plenty of information on epilepsy, heart disease, lung disease and alzheimer’s.