POINT PLEASANT — A local elementary school student is commemorating International Epilepsy Day on Monday by helping to spread awareness about the disease, which affects millions across the United States.
“Monday, Feb. 8, 2020 is International Epilepsy Day. The purpose of International Epilepsy Day is to raise awareness and educate people about epilepsy,” Sailor Oakes told The Ocean Star.
Epilepsy is a neurological disease that causes people to have recurrent seizures, a brief disruption of electrical activity in the brain. According to the Epilepsy Foundation of America, epilepsy is the fourth-most common neurological condition and affects people of all ages, with about 3.4 million individuals across the nation living with active epilepsy.
More than half the time, the cause of epilepsy is unknown, but according to the foundation over 150,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
“Increasing epilepsy awareness and understanding will make life better for people living with seizure disorders in our community. More importantly though, helping people to recognize and respond to seizures could save a life,” Sailor said.
After joining the Epilepsy Foundation and its Kids Crew last summer, Sailor, who has struggled with the condition for many years, was inspired to help fundraise and advocate for Paul’s Law, which authorizes parents or guardians to request the use of an individualized health care plan for students with epilepsy or seizure disorders, and brought it to the attention of local and state political leaders.
Last year, in support of the Epilepsy Foundation of America, Sailor participated in the Lemonade for Livy program. Throughout the spring and summer of 2020, Sailor found a special way to help keep families and community members safe and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic, while raising funds to support the cause close to her heart. Instead of selling lemonade, she sold hand sanitizer with profits going to support the Epilepsy Foundation of America to help find cures and save lives.
“I think in our journey with epilepsy we have certainly learned a lot but what has been most striking to us is the fact that it is so prevalent, that it really is something that touches so many lives,” said Jennifer Sancton Oakes, Sailor’s mom. “It wasn’t something that we had really known or understood before and it all sort of ties beautifully with the efforts that she had been doing over the summer and spring in getting out into the community to raise money.
“Every time we would set up a stand, we would have families come up to us and say my sister, my uncle, my best friend from college has suffered from epilepsy or they’ll tell us great stories about how someone might have grown out of their epilepsy or how their seizures are well taken care of with medications and it was really just remarkable to see how many people are really impacted by it,” she said.
“When we talk about International Epilepsy Day, it is a chance for a lot of people to come together and to talk about increasing awareness and talk about all the things that are important for the epilepsy community and for us that would be raising money to support programs and research so that one day we can hopefully find a cure.”
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