By Deron Hamel
When Eileen Campbell was 14 years old, she was involved in a car crash that resulted in a brain injury. After the accident, she developed epilepsy which caused her to have tonic-clonic seizures.
Now 49, Campbell has lived with the challenges epilepsy poses. She has three grown sons, each of whom has been supportive of her. She is outspoken when it comes to advocating for epilepsy awareness and has passed this on to her sons.
Campbell recalls how, many years ago, one of her sons had a girl in his class who had epilepsy. He explained the condition to his other classmates, something Campbell is proud of him for doing.
“He got them talking and explained (epilepsy) so it wasn’t something to be scared of,” Campbell says. “Like so many things in the world, it’s just ignorance that makes people scared or judgemental.”
Campbell has a saying: “If I could find the store that I could return epilepsy to, I would, because no one who has it wants it.” While there is no cure for epilepsy, research to learn more about the condition is something that’s making Campbell hopeful.
This past summer, Epilepsy Ontario entered into a formal partnership with EpLink, the Ontario Brain Institute’s (OBI’s) epilepsy research program, to study the link between brain trauma and the onset of epilepsy.
While it is understood that people who suffer a traumatic brain injury are at increased risk of developing epilepsy in subsequent years, the precise triggers as to why this happens are unknown.
Dr. Jorge Burneo, associate professor and researcher at Western University and co-director of EpLink, is leading an ongoing study to learn more about what causes epilepsy in people who have sustained brain injury.
Through support from the William Donald Willis Fund, Epilepsy Ontario’s contribution will allow Burneo to compile an extensive database of patients with brain injuries who went on to develop epilepsy.
“We want to see what kinds of epilepsy treatment were most responsive to various types of brain trauma,” Burneo says. “That way we can design better treatments for patients with brain trauma and maybe even prevent the onset of Epilepsy.”
Campbell says research into the relation between brain injury and epilepsy could bring new hope for herself and to others who have developed epilepsy as a result of a brain injury.
“There can never be too much investigation into brain injury,” she says. “To me, it’s fascinating that they’re finding and doing new things (thanks to research). There could be a cure around the corner for epilepsy.”
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