In his third dispatch, Dr Yoseph highlights the common problem of burn injuries for epilepsy patients.

Burns are one of the major causes of disabilities due to epilepsy. It is a sad fact that many epileptic patients face the danger of falling into open fires made for cooking or other reasons. Falling from on high while collecting twigs for firewood and drowning in the rainy season in the flooding rivers are some other causes of major disability and death. Here are three stories which describe the effects of such epileptic incidents.

A 30 year old lady from rural part of Jimma who developed hand deformity of the fingers and hand following fall into fire while cooking. She remained unmarried and shunned by her family as a burden.

A 21 year old shepherd who had made a bone-fire in the field to warm himself in the cold season while herding cattle had sudden attack of seizure. Fortunately only his hands fell into the fire while the rest of his body was safely away. It was too late when he was discovered and his left hands were burned beyond recovery and amputated while contracture couldn’t be prevented on his right hand. He is currently unable to use his hands. 

A 16 years old school girl who fell into open cooking fire while helping her mother, who supports the family selling Injera. The mother was around to take her out of the fire but not soon enough to avoid severe burns to the face. After recovery with a very scarred face, the girl refused to go back to school for fear that her looks would frighten off younger students and also bring her stigma among her peers. Her chances of education and forming a family when coming to age all gone together. She continues to live with her mother

Such tragedies can be effectively prevented through early detection, control of seizures with anticonvulsant drugs and health education. After injury a quick and appropriate burn management and Rehabilitative measures for those who have developed serious disability would also be crucial. Decentralization of services through training of nurses in the primary care setting which are far more accessible to the victims in terms of distance would give the opportunity for early detection and control of seizures and when this has failed an early burn treatment and referral in severe cases will significantly reduce the burden of permanent disability to these patients.