Efforts underway to help people living with epilepsy affected by Alberta wildfire

May 12, 2016

By Deron Hamel

Edmonton Epilepsy Association is part of a consolidated emergency support team to help people displaced by the wildfire that continues to impact northern Alberta, near the town of Fort McMurray.

FtMcMurray350The agency has been finding accommodation in private homes for people with epilepsy and their families since the town was evacuated May 3, two days after the fire started southwest of Fort McMurray.

Assistance is being provided by the agency’s directors, staff and members who have knowledge of epilepsy and how to deal with seizures and other elements of the condition, says Gary Sampley, the Edmonton Epilepsy Association’s executive director.

“We believe that those Fort McMurray individuals with epilepsy will feel more comfortable and at ease knowing that there is already knowledge, caring and understanding in their temporary accommodation,” he says.

One of the major concerns for people with epilepsy affected by the wildfire has been access to medication. The good news is that people needing epilepsy medication have been getting it, Sampley says.

“There are select pharmacies working with Alberta Health Services and people are being directed to those pharmacies once they indicate to the evacuation organizing committee what their needs are,” Sampley says.

The Edmonton Epilepsy Association has registered with the evacuation organizing committee, and any questions related to the specific needs of people with epilepsy are being directed to the agency. Questions about epilepsy medications are being directed either to the Edmonton Epilepsy Association or to the pharmacies that have been recruited by the Alberta government.

“I’m surprised at just how organized it is,” Sampley says.

To date, the fire has displaced an estimated 90,000 people in Fort McMurray and the surrounding area. Since about one in every 100 Canadians is living with epilepsy, Sampley points out about 900 living with the condition have been affected by the wildfire.

Seizure and Brain Injury Centre executive director Rhonda Latendresse knows firsthand the impact fire can have on a community. She experienced the 2012 forest fire in Timmins, Ont., which burned for five months.

She recently sent her support in an e-mail to the Edmonton Epilepsy Association.

“As someone who lived through the fifth largest forest fire here in Timmins, my heart goes out to them,” she wrote. “What I experienced is nothing compared to what these people are going through.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the relief effort can do so through the Canadian Red Cross.

If you have feedback on this story, or have a story of your own that you would like to share, please contact the newsroom at 1-800-294-0051, ext. 23, or e-mail deron(at)axiomnews.ca. You can also leave a comment below.

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