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Lost and found 2: with lessons on epilepsy

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.



Knock, knock!

“Take it quickly, drink every drop of it.”
A terrified Sunday sat in his grandmother’s lap clutching a cup of brownish liquid. He could feel its warmth through the thin plastic cup. On a normal day, he would have been outside in the sun, playing football. But since he convulsed the second time, Mama had decided to stop taking chances. Every day of the one and half weeks since, she made him drink up full cups twice daily of the special ‘tea’ made from unripe plantain peels, mangoes, tree barks and lemon grass. A small whip sat by her side after he upended the cup’s content the day before in an attempt to escape what he considered unfair punishment.
“You won’t take it? I will beat you now. Start drinking it!” Mama said as she picked up the whip. “Everything I’m doing is for your good. I want you to get well. Nobody has epilepsy in our family and you won’t either. Drink it up!”
Tears silently rolled down his face. He placed the cup against his trembling lips. The memory of the tea’s bitter taste filled his mouth and made him choke on his saliva. His coughing lasted a few moments before Mama’s whip was on his buttock. “Drink this thing, naughty child!”
A knock sounded on the door and a smiling face peeped in.


“Good afternoon, Mama. How is Sunday?” asked the young lady who stepped in bearing two bags threatening to spill their wares all over the floor.
“See him,” Mama said brightly, “he’s doing better. Thank you for that day.”
“It’s nothing, ma. Have you taken him to hospital yet?”
Mama looked away sharply, her face dripped of disdain. Sunday looked from one woman to the other. It wasn’t the first time he would meet the visitor, she was the scary aunty nurse from the next house. Merely seeing her stern face gave him nightmares of buttock injections.
“I work at General. You can bring him there so we can check him very well. Have you heard, ma?” Mama ignored her. She pretended to put the plates and cutlery basket in order.
“Is money the problem? General is free, ma, as long as he’s not yet twelve.” At this, Mama sighed. Still looking away, she replied, “aunty, it’s not money. Do you know what they will start calling him? Even if his mother is not here, I should be able to do what’s best for him.”
Although he did not understand what was discussed, Sunday willed the conversation to continue. Now that Mama was distracted, he could easily find a way to dispose the bitter tea. The closest route was the black drum that housed their drinking water.
“Mama, he’s not the only one that has convulsions. And it may be caused by something we can treat.” Aunty nurse set her heavy bags on the floor and sat herself at the bed’s edge.
“What if it is not treatable?” Mama asked, her face was a rumpled sheet of worry as she turned unwanted attention to her grandson, “Sunday, have you finished it?”



People who have repeated convulsions have a seizure disorder, the name often used instead of epilepsy. Some have an identifiable cause but most do not. Making crowds around such people, calling them names, discriminating against them in any form is unhelpful as epilepsy is not contagious, is not a mental illness and is not always associated with mental retardation.

These seizures can be embarrassing as they may happen without warning. Possible triggers include blinking lights from TV or club lights, stress, and alcohol. You may also experience strangeness like an unusual feeling or déjà vu at the start of a seizure.
All hope is not lost. The treatment of seizure disorders will be discussed in the upcoming part of our story. Stay tuned. We love to hear from you as usual.

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Dr. Akin-onitolo A. is a graduate of the University of Lagos whose mission is to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) using health promotion and improved health literacy. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who had her elective at King's College London. Hugely interested in travel, meeting people and generally being creative, reading and writing fiction are a few hobbies you could find her engaged in during her spare time. Catch up with her on Twitter @Akinonitolo and Instagram @t_onitolo