The Epileptic Boy

Based on a true story written exclusively for TPJCian Magazine. The names in this post are fictitious as requested to protect the identity of the family.

Ahmad sat on the couch alone. He just woke up from his slumber. He stared at the headline news printed on the front page of Berita Harian. It was a calm and serene morning. The sound of the rustling leaves from the nearby trees could be heard as the morning breeze swept by. But everything soon changed with a blink of an eye...

Ahmad's body began to shake uncontrollably. His teeth abraded each other viciously like an old malfunctioned grinding machine. It let off a screeching sound that pervaded the living room. The silence was broken and everything suddenly turned chaotic. Goosebumps began to mushroom all over Ahmad's body. Green thick mucus took advantage and escaped from the blocked nose. His distorted face now looked messy. Ahmad seemed to have been possessed by a ruthless demon. He began to hit his head profusely, as if trying get rid of the culprit. It somehow worked and he regained control of his body almost thirty seconds later.

Ahmad was exhausted after the ordeal ended. His already emaciated body turned completely helpless. His mother helped him up and leaded him to his bedroom. His overworked muscles needed to rest. His face was cleaned from all the thick green mucus. Goosebumps soon faded away. A moment of calmness finally invaded the room.

The agony Ahmad just went through is not a form of demonic possession. He had epileptic seizures. Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder that causes its victims to experience recurrent convulsions. He is one of the about fifty million people worldwide who lives with the disorder everyday.

Ahmad began suffering from the disorder since childhood. He had his first seizures after having a very high fever. Coming from a religious and conservative background, his family decided to consult a witch doctor. In the past, epileptic attacks are widely believed as demonic possessions. The prescriptions given worsened the situation and the fever never subsided. His parents rushed him to the hospital but it was too late by then. Ahmad's brain was badly affected. Doctors said that he had become retarded. It would be his permanent mental challenge; one known as cerebral palsy.

Ahmad now stays at home with his family. He is not able to work or study due to his mental condition. His parents still carry high hopes for his recovery. Taking care of Ahmad is a huge obstacle in their lives - although Ahmad is twenty nine years old now, he still behaves like a two-year-old boy. He has to wear diapers daily as he is not able to clear his bowels himself. His speech difficulties also made it hard for him to voice his needs to go into the washroom.

Ahmad is not able to feed himself. His mother usually takes the duty of nourishing her son. This is a laborious task as Ahmad may suddenly suffer a seizure while eating. As a result, all the food is thrown out back at her. Hence, she has to occasionally do clean-ups. Ahmad's mother has persevered for more than twenty years and she takes the challenges as a test from God of her strength and determination.

Ahmad has weak jaw muscles. He is not able to close his mouth and this resulted in an unintentional loss of saliva from the mouth. The condition affects his social life as well as his parents'. His parents need to consistently wipe the saliva so that it will not soil his clothes. This sometimes take a lot of time and prevents the family from going out of home.

It is unfortunate that epileptic patients usually affect the social interactions of their caregivers. Ahmad has an eighteen-year-old brother, Shaiful, who is currently studying in college. Shaiful often withdraws from mixing with his friends whenever they discuss about their families. He is not shy of his brother, but just worried at how they may react to his brother's condition. After all, his brother is special. He fears that his friends will not accept him after exposing the truth. Sometimes, he has to skip class outings due to his commitment in taking care of his brother while his parents are away. All these have affected Shaiful's social interactions.

As Ahmad grows older, his legs have become thinner and weaker. Ahmad had experienced a traumatic fall before. He fell head first on the kitchen cupboard due to a sudden seizure attack. He now spends less time walking and more time sitting. He has developed a phobia of standing up due to the painful experience. The good news is that his condition has improved. His mother never fail to give him the doctor's prescribed medicine on time and she occasionally massages his legs to relieve the after-seizure pains.

The Singapore Epilepsy Foundation (SEP) has been active in promoting awareness and conducting study and research to improve the lives of people with epilepsy in this country. The non-profit organization holds public forums to educate the society regarding epilepsy. Another non-profit and volunteer-based organization that addresses the needs of epileptic patients and their caregivers is the Epilepsy Care Group (ECG).

Ahmad hopes that Singaporeans will accept people like him in the community. He is sick and tired of citizens who stare at him in public as if he is an alien from outer space. His parents want more space for Ahmad to spend his time out in public areas such as the neighbourhood parks. His brother hopes Singaporeans will be more understanding of mental patients and their needs. It is slow process but they believe society will change for the better soon.


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