Opinion | Seizure first aid should be a campus priority

As the fourth leading neurological problem affecting U.S. adults each year, seizure first aid should become a part of life skills taught on UI campus.


Yasmina Sahir, Opinions Columnist

After a 2018 surgery to remove the growing brain tumor in the right anterior lobe of my brain, my neurosurgeon warned my risk of seizures would remain high in my surgical recovery, remission, and tumor-free stages of my medical journey.

I have always had one concern: If I seize in public without a close friend nearby, will bystanders be more concerned with taking photos of an embarrassing moment, or will people know what to do that could potentially save my or another person’s life?

The University of Iowa should start requiring first-aid training in their orientation services for all students when they enroll in their first semester. Similar to the teaching process for alcohol poisoning, including quick instructions in video format could be a lifesaving measure one day.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects approximately 1.2 percent of the U.S. adult population and is the fourth most common neurological condition in the country, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. It is estimated that one in every 26 people will experience a seizure in their lifetime.

That means over 1,200 of the total 31,317 student population on the UI campus are potentially at risk of seizing in their adult lives.

While walking across campus on Nov. 10, I witnessed a young adult having a grand mal seizure on the crosswalk of Iowa Avenue and Clinton Street.

Several students chose to stand around, staring and taking photos. Others stepped in, bravely handling the situation by making sure emergency services arrived and proper seizure first aid was administered.

Seizure conditions are diagnosed for a variety of reasons. Epilepsy, brain tumors, and diabetes can all lead to a person experiencing seizure-like symptoms.

Until I was forced to understand the ins and outs of seizure aid, I was unaware of how easy first aid in these scenarios can be.

My classmate asked me last week what she should do if I ever were to seize in front of her. This question caused me to pause, as she was the first person — outside of legally obligated professors — to ask me about lifesaving measures in the case of an emergency.

But the burden of seizure education should not be placed on those who must navigate a non-seizure friendly world in the first place.

The first step in seizure first aid is to stay with the seizing individual until they are conscious. Alert nearby medical personnel, or call 911. If the seizure lasts longer than three minutes, especially if the five-minute mark passes, the seizure should be considered a medical emergency.

Another point of seizure advocacy that should be taught by UI during orientation is to remind students peer pressure has no place on campus. Not all college students will be able to drink, watch flashy horror movies, or attend concerts with strobe lighting amongst other activities that can be seizure inducing.

It is important to avoid peer pressuring your friends when they say they can’t do something. Whether or not they have an “obvious” disability, no one owes anyone else a more detailed answer than “no” to an activity that places them in potentially risky situations.

The UI should provide the entire student population with information on seizure first aid and advocate for safe campus environments for all students.

To the student who seized on Nov. 10, I hope you are okay and know you aren’t alone.

To the students who make a mockery out of other peoples’ medical emergencies, be better humans.

To the students who step in and advocate for their peers with chronic illnesses and life-threatening conditions, thank you.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.