Seizure Management in Zambia

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment


EEG shows abnormal activity in some types of s...

EEG shows abnormal activity in some types of seizure disorder, but may or may not display abnormal findings in PTE. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Today, I gave a presentation to the Special Hope Network staff about seizure disorders. Although I don’t have specific data to back me up (yet), the prevalence of seizure disorders amongst the Special Hope children is incredibly high. This is mainly due simply to the kinds of disabilities we see – cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, global developmental delays, autism, metabolic disorders, etc.

A seizure is a disturbance of the normal electrical activity in the brain. There are two kinds of seizures: generalized tonic-clonic (affecting the entire brain) and complex partial (affecting only a portion of the brain). These can generally be distinguished in the clinical setting by observing or hearing a report the symptoms of the seizure activity. Although only further clinical testing (i.e. EEG) can determine exactly what the brain’s electrical activity is doing, if it can be caught at just the right moment.

There is limited access to neurological specialists in Zambia – it may take 3-4 months to even get an appointment at the large government teaching hospital (UTH). This combined with poor health care education of the parents, limited access to anti-seizure drugs (there are frequent shortages), and the politics of poverty can make managing seizures very difficult.

A common scenario is that a mother will say that her child is having “fits” (seizures). When you question her further, you find:

1) that she stopped giving her child the medication because it made the child too sleepy
2) they ran out of medication 2 weeks ago because the government clinic/hospital was out
3) The dose is given at various times of the day rather than on a strict schedule
4) The child is taking the dose as prescribed and the drug is not therapeutic (meaning the child still has seizures)

It is unfortunate that many of these situations could be prevented by patient teaching and better medical management. Special Hope is working on providing such resources to the families we serve to help bridge the gap to these parents.

Contrasting true seizure disorders, we find that often times muscle spasms are diagnosed as seizures at local clinics and treated accordingly. Perhaps this accounts for some of the drug shortages?

In case you’re unfamiliar, the reason why it’s important to treat seizures is to prevent further brain damage and increased developmental delays. For some of these children, the continuous seizure activity is devastating to their development and great hinders their progress in school and therapy.

One of the many things that Special Hope Network does is provide medication when the family has run out and education to the families. They rely on donors like you and me to support the critical work they are doing for children with intellectual disabilities in Zambia. I see the work they are doing every day and donate both my time and money. For me, every child is just like Nathaniel but without the money, resources, and education that I have received so freely. I have to fight for their cause.

If you know of anyone with any kind of disability (which you do, because you’re reading this blog and know our son Nathaniel), click over to Special Hope Network’s donation page. Even a small donation of $5.00 would help.The general fund includes the purchase of medications for these precious kiddos. Better yet, become a monthly donor. Monthly donors are the most critical to the ministry because of the regular support they provide. Do it now and know that you really are helping the least of these.

On behalf of these precious and vulnerable little ones, I say thank you.



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