Shreedhar Joshi (name changed) was just three days old when he got his first epileptic attack. His paediatrician in Malad prescribed medicines, but the little boy’s health issues did not end there. When he was six months old, he suffered a terrible fall at home following which he would suffer from at least four seizures a day.
When an eight-year-old Shreedhar visited the Epilepsy Foundation, senior consultant neuro-physician at Bombay hospital and founder trustee and chairman of Epilepsy Foundation Dr Nirmal Surya discovered an intriguing fact. “Shreedhar has a rather uncommon trigger for seizures. In his case, it is touch. If you touch his right hand, he starts getting seizures.”
Shreedhar’s medical condition is called reflex epilepsy, which means seizures are triggered by something, for instance, flickering lights. He underwent a surgery in 2013 when he was 10, and according to his family, his seizures have become less frequent. “We performed an epilepsy surgery on him. Since he had epilepsy from the time he was born, he will have to take medication all his life,” said Dr Surya.
Shreedhar’s mother, Vishakha (name changed) said Shreedhar needs to be monitored all the time. “He goes to a regular school. His right hand is very weak. Even if someone brushes past his right hand, he starts getting seizures. That is why I always go with him everywhere. His school has also been quite supportive,” she said.
Doctors in the city say that most people with reflex epilepsy get the seizures with spontaneous or unprovoked stimuli. “Reflex epilepsy is not uncommon, to be honest. These seizures are caused by some problem in a region of the brain. Hence, an epilepsy surgery in most of these cases may help,” said Dr Neelu Desai, consultant paediatric neurologist at PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research centre.
According to some doctors, this condition could be the result of deprivation of oxygen in the brain at the time of birth. “The seizures triggered by touch are not rare. This is generally because of the permanent scar to the brain that may have been caused due to perinatal asphyxia, which is a medical condition resulting in deprivation of oxygen at the time of birth,” said Dr Sangeeta Rawat, professor and head of neurology, KEM Hospital and neurologist at Global Hospital.