WILL PINKSTON | The Sun
Jamey Locke, executive director of Mercy Regional EMS, opens the doors to an ambulance at the medical service's headquarters in Paducah. Paramedics respond to about 15-20 emergency calls per month in our area to help people exhibiting seizure-like symptoms.
In many respects the brain is similar to a computer.
Through synapses and conductors, both interpret and transmit data. But unlike a computer, when the brain receives a signal overload, a simple control-alt-delete keystroke physically manifests itself in a scary mental reboot.
Often-times idiopathic in nature, seizures remain a neurological affliction whose sudden onset can affect a wide spectrum of people.
Typically occurring when a sudden burst of electrical impulses overload the brain, seizures create a storm of activity that can spread throughout different brain hemispheres, said Dr. Niranjan Siva, a neurologist with the Neurology Group of Paducah.
With electrical impulses firing simultaneously throughout the brain — as is the case in the most common forms of seizures, called grand mal or generalized tonic-clonic — seizures of varying degrees can cause unusual sensations such as repetitive movements, muscle twitches, convulsions and loss of consciousness.
Jamey Locke, executive director of Mercy Regional EMS, said paramedics receive about 15 to 20 calls a month for seizures in the Paducah area. Since most seizures last two to five minutes, usually paramedics arrive towards the end or as a patient enters into a postictal state of deep sleep.
Paramedics will establish an IV with a form of benzodiazapine in the event a seizure continues and take the patient to a hospital for further medical evaluation.
“If it’s a new onset seizure, we need to find out why they’re having the seizure,” Locke said. “It’s not normal for the body to seize and it’s the body’s way of telling us something.”
If a person is suspected of having a seizure, Locke said, the best course of action after calling 911 is trying to protect the patient from injury. Siva advised rolling a patient on his side and ensuring the airway isn’t blocked, but not to place anything in the mouth.
In adults, Siva said seizures can be associated with vascular malformations or as the result of a stroke. In children under 6 years of age, onset is usually a result of fever, said Dr. David Schell, a pediatrician with the Pediatric Group of Paducah.
“People can get extremely frightened when there’s a seizure, but just make the child comfortable and make sure they keep breathing,” Schell said. “Most of these seizures will stop spontaneously.”
Parents should follow the same course of action to help a child as you would for an adult and follow up with an emergency room visit.
Call Will Pinkston, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.