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Dealing with Terrifying Seizures Related to Multiple Sclerosis

Columnist Cathy Chester recalls her terrifying experience with focal onset impaired awareness seizures and shares that she controls them with medication.

When you’ve lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for as long as I have, you sometimes forget or block out negative experiences you’ve had over the years. As The Rolling Stones put it, “Time is on my side.”

One particular memory seems distant, but I know it’s real, and unfortunately, the cause of this unpleasant recollection is chronic.

We built our first home in 1994. It was a beautiful ranch sitting on two acres of land. Our son was 16 months old, and we were excited to begin our life as a family in a gorgeous setting. The house required a lot of work between construction plans and decorating, but we had no complaints. We knew we were blessed.

Then one day, we went shopping at a local hardware store to choose bathroom tiles. As I pushed my son in his stroller, I felt an odd sensation, a kind of aura that’s difficult to describe. I had been diagnosed with MS eight years earlier but had never experienced anything like this before.

My mind went blank. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I had a feeling of being lost in a dark place, bombarded with horrible images. I yelled for my husband who came running, took the stroller, and led me to a chair. My thoughts were frightening and eerie. Though the episode lasted mere seconds, it felt like an eternity.

After several subsequent episodes, I called my neurologist, who examined me, then recommended I see a specialist in seizure disorders for an overnight evaluation. They observed my brain disturbances as I slept, using special probes placed on my head. It was similar to a test carried out in a sleep center.

I had the probes removed the following day. My doctor explained that I had partial complex seizures, now called focal onset impaired awareness seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, focal onset impaired awareness seizures begin in one area or side of the brain. The person affected can become unaware of their surroundings. Particular unintentional actions can accompany these seizures such as lip smacking or fumbling. Treatments include medication, diet, surgery, and devices.

Read on: Dealing with Terrifying Seizures Related to Multiple Sclerosis

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