Striking out epilepsy

By on August 16, 2013
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Photo: Allison Rowland, a KHS graduate and Elburn resident, threw out the first pitch at the Kane County Cougars baseball game on Aug. 8 as a way to help promote epilepsy awareness. Allison’s mom, Cindy, also does epilepsy advocacy work. Photo by Lynn Logan

Kaneland grad represents epilepsy awareness at KC Cougars game
ELBURN—Alli Rowland, a Kaneland High School graduate and Elburn resident, got the chance to throw out the first pitch at the Kane County Cougars game on Aug. 8 and represent the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago (EFGC) in order to bring epilepsy awareness to the Kane County area.

“It’s kind of exciting to see how it feels and what the pros experience,” Rowland said of her appearance.

Rowland, too, suffers from epilepsy, and said that after going through a few local doctors, she went to Rush University Medical Center and met Dr. Antoaneta Balabanov, M.D., who really helped her pursue a “better quality of life.”

Alli’s mom, Cindy, is an epilepsy advocate.

“Being an advocate is just a way of giving, back; I truly believe in service for others,especially helping the less fortunate,” Cindy said.

Alli said that her mom inspires her because she pushes her to have an independent lifestyle and be self-sufficient, and learn how to be an advocate for herself.

Alli hasn’t ever been able to drive an automobile, but that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her dreams. She has attended a few semesters of college and currently works with the elderly in a nursing home.

Over two million people in the United States have epilepsy, and the EFGC offers counseling, advocacy and educational services to individuals with epilepsy. In addition to personal services and support, the EFGC brings awareness to the communities in which they live, like partnering with organizations like the Kane County Cougars.

Motivating her to spread the word about epilepsy and the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago, Alli said, “Just talking to people helps bring a better understanding and acceptance. The Foundation is a great connection with services. A lot of people are affected, either themselves or someone they know.”

One hundred and fifty thousand new cases of epilepsy are discovered in the United States every year, and with over two million people diagnosed with epilepsy, the odds of knowing someone with the condition are considerable.

The importance of supporting individuals with epilepsy is crucial, as Alli’s mother admires that her daughter isn’t negative about her illness.

“Many who suffer from limiting illnesses get really down. I’m so glad she isn’t like that,” Cindy said.

But what is a seizure and what can you do to help if you are with someone who is having a seizure?

According to the EFGC, “Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. It’s also called a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy. A seizure happens when a brief, strong surge of electrical activity affects part or all of the brain. One in 10 adults will have a seizure sometime during their life.

Further, the EFGC states that “seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. They can have many symptoms, from convulsions and loss of consciousness to some that are not always recognized as seizures by the person experiencing them or by health care professionals: blank staring, lip smacking, or jerking movements of arms and legs.”

The most important thing to remember about helping someone who is having a seizure is to keep calm and make sure the person is safe from harm. Events where the EFGC is present (like the Cougars game) and able to share information about epilepsy brings awareness and helps dispel misconceptions about the disease.

“EFGC have a lot of different people there with different services they manage,” Cindy said. “Look up the website www.epilepsychicago.org and there is a CAB (Commitunity Awareness Board) in a lot of the suburbs. We have one in the tri-city area, which meets and helps with support, community activities, fundraisers, etc.”