November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month

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One in 26 of us will develop epilepsy in our lifetime, but the chronic condition continues to be one of the most overlooked and under funded.

Like every other teenager, Lauren Mannikko uses social media to communicate with the world.  The 18-year-old has a Facebook page called Lauren's Journey with Epilepsy. She describes a recent entry, "Fun facts for kids who don't understand epilepsy."

Symptoms began showing up when Lauren was a toddler, but the neurological disorder and the grand mal seizures that came with it, really turned her life upside down when she hit middle school.

"They cause you to literally fall to the ground", Lauren explains, with a gentle patience that hints at the amount of times she's had to describe her seizures to the uninformed.

Her family has been by her side through it all. her mom Catherine has become an advocate for Lauren and epilepsy, "Right now  Lauren's on three pretty strong pharmaceuticals that really affects her - her stamina."

Those strong medicines have kept Lauren seizure-free for the past year, but the overwhelming side effects have also kept her out of traditional school. 

"And I was, uhm, just stuck here", says Lauren, sighing heavily. At home, where Washoe County School District offers educational support through its home hospital program.

"Her social life has been really affected", says Catherine.

Lauren's father Dan says there are a lot of misconceptions and fear about epilepsy, "People don't really know what to do when something happens like a seizure."

Those seizures start in the brain. At Renown Health, child neurologist Dr. Colin Nguyen shows us what normal and abnormal brain wave activity looks like and says the early symptoms can be very mild, like prolonged staring.

Dr. Nguyen said. "Other things, for example, are like twitching. Episodes where afterwards they seem like they're confused, they're not quite there. Subtle things you're looking for, to see if there's a pattern." 

Patients must have regular brain scans called EEG's - and many, like Lauren take from 12 to 25 pills per day, but the greatest impact is one most of us don't see.

 "How you feel like you're different from other people", says Lauren. 

 "They need somebody to help them through the event," says Dan, "which is very short, 30 seconds to a minute, most often."

Lauren's parents say if you know someone with epilepsy, it's okay to ask questions.

"The biggest thing is just to be kind, you know - and don't be afraid"  says Catherine. Kindness goes a long way.

You can follow Lauren's journey on Facebook at @laurenmjourney and learn more about epilepsy at epilepsy.com.

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