A Lesson in Epilepsy

​A special school event in Haifa, led by senior physicians from Rambam Health Care Campus, focused on raising awareness of epilepsy and educating children so as to remove their misconceptions and fears related to this condition.

Hundreds of students from Haifa’s Izraelia elementary school, participated this week in the "Purple Day" events, a project initiated by Rambam Health Care Campus to increase epilepsy awareness. Senior Rambam physicians and staff led the project in coordination with the School's administration, under the direction of Mrs. Iris Cohen. The project aims to educate children about epilepsy and to clarify their misconceptions towards those afflicted with the illness. This pilot project is being considered by the Haifa Municipality and Regional Departments of Education as part of an educational project for other schools.

"Around one percent of the population suffers from epilepsy, so there are students who suffer from epilepsy in every school," explained Dr. Mony Benifla, Director of the Pediatric Neurosurgery Unit in the Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital at Rambam, and of the Zukier Family Comprehensive Epilepsy Center of Excellence. "Some of these children react well to medications are able to hide their condition, but others experience seizures during the course of their day in school and are perceived as different."

"Our purpose is to speak about epilepsy with the community in a straight forward fashion, and to reduce the surrounding fear and stigma," said Yael Safran, Head Nurse of Rambam’s Department of Neurology and the head of the educational program of the Zukier Family Comprehensive Epilepsy Center of Excellence.

In the information sessions, students from grades 1-6 at the Izraelia School met with Rambam staff members including Dr. Benifla and Yael Safran, as well as Aviva Feldman Bahagi, a leading activist for epilepsy education and mother of Laura, a 12-year-old girl with epilepsy. Feldman Bahagi coordinates with Rambam on advancing epilepsy education in the community and in schools, and has participated in numerous special Knesset forums on the subject.

The Izraelia School was decked out in purple, the official color of the international epilepsy education movement. The day began with a large "happening" in the school's purple lobby, and students visited purple stalls filled with educational materials and received purple tee shirts. Divided by age groups, students met with Rambam representatives who discussed the sensitive topic in an interesting, age appropriate fashion, using presentations, playacting with dolls, readings from children's stories, and small roundtable discussions.

"As the mother of an epileptic child, over the years, I have established many activities and educational projects about epilepsy in order to bridge our reality and the way it is perceived around us," said Feldman Behagi. "Through education, it is possible to turn this challenging experience into something better for all who are touched by this illness. These are the values that we advance here, in the hope that children participating in the project will become our ambassadors."

Did you know? Here are five little known facts about epilepsy:

  1. The tongue is not swallowed during times of a seizure.
  2. The most common attacks involve a brief period during which the person is unaware of his surroundings for several seconds.
  3. If the epileptic attack does not exceed 10 minutes, there is no need to call an ambulance.
  4. In Israel, Knesset members, prominent business leaders, and well-known artists suffer from epilepsy.
  5. The majority of people afflicted with epilepsy do not experience epileptic seizures because of effective medications.