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Family ditches muti for epilepsy treatment

MPUMALANGA – After a 6-year-old girl suffered numerous seizures and took unnecessary treatment from local sangomas, she has finally been properly diagnosed with epilepsy and is doing well on treatment.

Now her family is keen to share their ordeal with other families in the hope that other children with epilepsy don’t have to suffer unnecessarily and get the correct treatment quickly.

Ayanda Mkhize* suffered from epilepsy for a year as her family hoped that local sangomas and treatments would be able to cure her.

Ayanda’s mother Nokwanda Mkhize said “From her birth, my daughter was healthy and fine. She has never been hospitalised or shown any signs of epilepsy. But soon after she turned five in May 2016 she suddenly started stiffening and losing consciousness. She was rushed to hospital and we were informed that it was just a high fever. After she was given oxygen and other treatment she was fine. But looking back, I now realise we were given the wrong diagnosis.”

Ayanda returned home happily, believing she was well.

“My family and I were over the moon with joy about my daughter’s full recovery. But our joy did not last long because she suddenly started having more seizures. Not knowing what to do about it, we took her to a doctor who diagnosed her with epilepsy. Because we felt we were not ready, we refused the treatment.”

The symptoms or warning signs for epilepsy can include: jerking movements of the arms and legs, stiffening of the body, loss of consciousness, breathing problems or breathing stops, loss of bowel or bladder control, falling suddenly for no apparent reason – especially when associated with loss of consciousness.

“We were very confused about Ayanda’s sudden disorder and did not have enough information about it. We were surrounded by all the usual influences and suggestions from people wanting to help, so we end up taking her to well-known sangomas and churches in my community,” said Nokwanda.

“But all that happened was time and money were wasted in the process of our desperation. We now know that all of it wasn’t necessary,” she said.

Different disorders

There are many different disorders of the brain that may be associated with epilepsy. For some patients the disorder is congenital, meaning that a child is born with the predisposition to develop epilepsy. In other patients, the epilepsy disorder is acquired because of brain damage that occurred after birth.

“However, with the correct treatment, any person with epilepsy can live a normal and seizure-free life,” said nursing sister Bongiwe Buthelezi.

According to Jasper Zwane, spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Department of Education, “The department is fighting stigma and discrimination against learners with epilepsy through outreach programmers, awareness creation and education in the community at large. We have involved  Epilepsy SA as well as special school educators.”

There are many different disorders of the brain that may be associated with epilepsy. For some patients the disorder is congenital, meaning that a child is born with the predisposition to develop epilepsy.

Zwane said numerous workshops had been held across the province where specific attention was given to the reversal of negative attitudes towards epilepsy and to dispel myths about the condition. Advocacy programmes are ongoing and awareness is also done on electronic media.

“Accurate diagnosis is important and is done through proper tests. The large majority of learners with epilepsy are treated with medication and have very little to zero learning problems. It should be emphasized that epilepsy is not necessarily accompanied by low intelligence,” Zwane said.

Teacher Vusi Nkosi said “We encouraged parents with children who have epilepsy to inform the school and the class teacher about their child’s condition. We will then know what is happening and be able to assist properly if the child has seizures.”

“My daughter was later put on the epilepsy treatment and because of that, her seizures have stopped. She even doing well in school,” said Nokwanda. – Health-e News.

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