GOT a purple shirt? WEAR IT TODAY! A purple scarf? How about purple pants, handkerchiefs, underwear, jacket, hat, cap, and socks? If you got them, then wear ‘em.

No, this article is not about the celebrated book of Alice Walker that was later made into a wonderful movie by Steven Spielberg and honored during the 1986 Academy Awards with 11 nominations. It is not about the play either. Rather, wearing purple today is part of the international epilepsy awareness campaign.

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Today is world purple day!

Purple Day was birthed from the energetic mind of Cassidy Megan. Her struggles with epilepsy set her to reach a goal of having everyone talking about epilepsy, to educate people about it in order to dismiss myths and folklore about the illness. How many times have we heard that someone with epilepsy would amount to nothing? Have we heard of people with epilepsy being judged as needing long-term care until death? How many times have we heard people say that people with epilepsy will never achieve some form of independence, forever living a life fully dependent on relatives, loved ones, and care takers in their daily activities? People with epilepsy cannot go to school and be doctors or teachers or lawyers or engineers or architects or artists?

I am quite sure people are familiar with the following names – Margaux Hemingway, Danny Glover, Hugo Weaving, Richard Burton, George Frederick Handel, Neil Young, Nicolo Paganini, Peter Tchaikovsky, Robert Schumann, Agatha Christie, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, Lewis Carrol, Edward Lear, Vincent van Gogh, Blaise Pascal, Sir Isaac Newton, and Alfred Nobel. These disparate groups of writers, artists, and scientists have one thing in common. These individuals all had, and for those still alive, have epilepsy.

Epilepsy is quite common, affecting a minimum of 50 million individuals worldwide. It is the most common serious brain disorder in the world. Annually, there are 11 to 190 new cases for every 100,000 people. There are numerous causes to people having epilepsy. Some are congenital. Some are acquired. But not everyone with the illness cannot be productive members of society. The list above is proof of it. The biennial epilepsy exemplar awards of the Philippine League Against Epilepsy (PLAE) even had a physician receive the award for having his seizures controlled and for brave enough to face the challenges of living a productive life while afflicted with epilepsy.

Students with epilepsy are discriminated against in some areas of our society. They are frowned upon and not given an equal chance in proving themselves in school. Even in the workplace, some patients get prejudiced, leading further to the individual’s spiraling low self-esteem and low self-worth. Individuals with seizures are also fearful when applying for a job since they become categorized as less favorable options merely because they have epilepsy, even if such is controlled, with the last attack months or years in the past.

One wonders why patients with asthma, another common illness that temporarily incapacitates a person if their airways become too inflamed and constricted, do not get the same treatment as patients with epilepsy. Both illnesses renders a productive individual momentarily encumbered and thus unproductive when they get their attacks. One experiences difficulty of breathing while the patient with epilepsy get a brief and excessive brain cortical discharge that manifests itself as altered behavior such as a convulsion.

Where is the justice in that?

To know more about epilepsy, contact a local member of the PLAE, or log on to www.purpleday.org.

I want people to know that if you have epilepsy, you aren’t alone. – Cassidy Megan