November is Epilepsy Awareness Month

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November is Epilepsy Awareness Month and one of our local Steamboat neighbors is raising awareness on the disorder. Bill Whittemore has lived with Epilepsy since he was 2-days old but he doesn’t let it get him down. A familiar face at Natural Grocers, Bill has found that staying active and social helps him mediate his epileptic attacks. “I find that the more I’m active, the better I do health wise,” explains Bill who attributes his success minimizing the effects of the disorder to activity and diet as well supplements and medication prescribed by his neurologist.

As a part of National Epilepsy Awareness Month, Whittemore is raising money for the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado, a non-profit charity that works to assist the more than 50,000 men, women, and children living with Epilepsy in Colorado. Bill is raising awareness about Epilepsy both for people who may suffer from it and for people who want to help but don’t know how.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a common neurological condition caused by periods of abnormal activity in the brain’s electrical traffic that affects more than three-million people in America, and roughly one in every hundred people around the world. The most prevalent and visible symptoms of Epilepsy are seizures, which present in many different forms. The causes of Epilepsy vary by person and include genetics, infections, and traumatic brain injuries.

In Bill’s case, he was discovered by a nurse in respiratory distress. The lack of air and the trauma to his brain contributed to his disorder. Since then, Bill’s epilepsy has presented in many different ways, generally distinguished by the type of seizures that he has.

Types of seizures and their symptoms

  • General Tonic Clonic (Previously Called Grand Mal) – Sudden cry, fall, rigidity, followed by muscle jerks, shallow breathing or temporarily suspended breathing.
  • Absence (Previously Called Petit Mal) – A black stare, beginning and ending abruptly, lasting only a few seconds.  More common in children.  May be accompanied by rapid blinking.
  • Simple Partial – Involuntary jerking movement in one area of the body, arm, leg, or face.
  • Complex Partial – Usually starts with a blank stare, followed by chewing, followed by random activity.  Person appears unaware of surroundings.
  • Atonic – Sudden collapse and fall.  After 10 seconds to a minute, he regains consciousness.
  • Myoclonic – Sudden brief, massive muscle jerks that may involve the whole body or parts of the body.
  • Infantile – Clusters of quick, sudden movements that start between three months and two years.

What to do if someone is having a seizure?

So, what do you do if you see someone having a seizure? “A lot of people want to help out but often don’t know what to do,” explains Bill. “For example, out in the middle of town, I had a seizure where I felt really dizzy and I felt really bad, and people came and helped me and I asked them ‘Well how long did this last and you say that I fell but did you see which way I fell?’” If you witness someone having a seizure, here are a few simple steps that you can take to assist them:

  1. Keep the person from getting hurt by moving anything that he might shake or fall into.
  2. Put something flat and soft underneath their head, remove their glasses, loosen anything that’s around their neck.
  3. Turn them on their side to prevent them from choking.
  4. Keep track of how long their seizure lasts, and note any details about how they are convulsing.
  5. Check for breathing during and after the event.
  6. Don’t put anything in their mouth.
  7. Don’t restrain them.

If you see someone having a seizure, you should call 911 or bring them to the Emergency Room if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, the person is unable to breath, if they are bleeding or have hurt themselves, or if they don’t regain their regular cognitive functions after the seizure.

How to Help

If you would like to help Bill’s effort to raise money for the Epilepsy foundation, you can donate through the end of the month on his Facebook page ( Also, you can donate to the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado year-round on their website (, and to the national Epilepsy Foundation at their website (