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GlaxoSmithKline co-hosts Halloween party in Tamsui with Children's Epilepsy Association

By Camaron Kao--GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a world-leading research-based pharmaceutical company, and the Children's Epilepsy Association of Taiwan (台灣兒童伊比力斯協會) yesterday co-hosted a Halloween party at Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf (淡水漁人碼頭), giving children with epilepsy a chance to participate in a costume party, trick-or-treating and turning pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns.

“We are holding the activity for the children, offering them a chance to play like normal kids,” GSK Taiwan Branch General Manager Thomas Willemsen said. “At some places, they are not allowed to play because people do not know how to help them when they have a fit.”

Taipei Veterans General Hospital (台北榮民總醫院) neurologists Chen Chien (陳倩) and Hsu Ting-rong (許庭榕) and Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (林口長庚醫院) attending physician Wang Huei-shyong (王煇雄) all wore purple wizard costumes and joined the activities. According to Chen, purple has a special association with epilepsy. Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada, created the idea of Purple Day in 2008. Motivated by her own struggle with epilepsy, Cassidy designed the event to get people talking about the condition in order to dispel myths and make those with seizures feel that they are not alone.

The association itself also serves as a place for patients with epilepsy to meet and know that they are not alone, Chen stated. Furthermore, people can know how to cope with the disease from the experience of others.

Chen stated that approximately five to 10 of every 1,000 people have epilepsy, and in Taiwan some 100,000 to 200,000 people have the disease.

Although it is not rare, misunderstandings about the disease are still prevalent, Chen said.

Wang stated that people with the disease are sometimes perceived as “weird, dumb or crazy,” which is inaccurate. Some people even mistakenly think the disease is contagious.

Some are still not willing to admit to having the disease, Hsu said, adding that patients should go out more instead of being seclusive.

“Not all patients are seriously ill,” Wang stated. “Most of them can still live a normal life.”

In fact, the disease is caused by abnormal electric currents sent out from neurons, causing the body to move uncontrollably. Nowadays, epilepsy can be helped with certain drugs or surgical operations.

Hsu stated that when people have a seizure, the correct way to help them is to protect their heads, let them lie on their sides to avoid choking, protect them and wait until the seizure ends. It is also important not to insert anything into their mouths.

The safest follow-up is to send the patient to a hospital after the seizure ends, Hsu added.

At the venue, Willemsen, on behalf of GSK, donated “Medikidz — Epilepsy,” a comic book introducing epilepsy to kids, to members of the association, offering kids with epilepsy an easier and more interesting way to learn about themselves. As a sponsor of the book, GSK helped to translate the book into Chinese and has donated 5,000 copies to hospitals and the epilepsy association.

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Children with epilepsy and their parents paint pumpkins at a Halloween party held by GlaxoSmithKline and the Children's Epilepsy Association of Taiwan.

(Akie Ang, The China Post)

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