You may see a purple pumpkin when taking your kids trick-or-treating this year – they will be in all fifty states, after all. And if you do, you may want to ask the person, “Why is your pumpkin purple?” because it may very well be that the purple pumpkin is meant to start a conversation – and what you may learn could save a life.
The Purple Pumpkin Project was started by Ron Lamontagne of Connecticut in order to raise awareness about epilepsy, and to start conversations in an attempt to eliminate the stigma that is still attached to seizures. Purple is the color associated with epilepsy, and the reason that purple is the internationally recognized color for epilepsy is because it symbolizes the flower lavender, which in itself is seen to be symbolic of the loneliness and isolation that people with epilepsy often feel.
Lamontagne has a very personal reason for starting the Purple Pumpkin Project. His own son was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2009 at the age of four, and Lamontagne thought that painting pumpkins purple might just spark a much-needed conversation about seizure disorders, seizure first aid, and the stigma attached to epilepsy.
And it did. On a national level.
Many people are not aware of how prevalent epilepsy is, or that it is a very serious health risk. Epilepsy affects over 3 million people in America, and up to 50,000 people a year die in America from seizures or seizure-related causes.
Lamontage, like many parents of children who have epilepsy, wanted people to know about what epilepsy entailed, and what one should do in the case that they see someone having a seizure. He thought, at first, that it would be local family and friends who painted their pumpkins purple, but though the use of social media, the idea caught on and there were soon purple pumpkins in every state.
“I’m amazed and thrilled,” Ron Lamontagne said, of how his idea has grown. “I wanted something simple that would catch on. I honestly only really thought it would be some friends and family painting pumpkins, but it really blew up into a national event.”
According to Lamontagne, the Purple Pumpkin Project has encouraged people to share their own stories and experiences with epilepsy.
“People have spoken about the positive impact of their brain surgery and about keeping their seizures secret out of fear,” Lamontagne said. “People talked about relatives who struggled with seizures and even spoke about family members lost due to seizures.”
He added, “The Purple Pumpkin Project has presented an opportunity to talk about the stigma of epilepsy and the impact it has had on each person’s life.”
Just last week, Duck Dynasty’s Jep Robertson suffered from what is being called “a life-threatening seizure.” And that makes him one of one in ten people who will suffer from a seizure in their lifetime – a startling statistic. Purple Pumpkin Project painters often hand out fliers with seizure first aid protocol, knowing that it could save a life.
If you see someone having a seizure, it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that you do the following:
- Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
- Prevent injury by clearing the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
- Ease the person to the floor and put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his head.
- Remove eyeglasses and loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
- Time the seizure with your watch. If the seizure continues for longer than five minutes without signs of slowing down or if a person has trouble breathing afterwards, appears to be injured, in pain, or recovery is unusual in some way, call 911.
- Do not hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
- Contrary to popular belief, it is not true that a person having a seizure can swallow his tongue. Do not put anything in the person’s mouth. Efforts to hold the tongue down can injure the teeth or jaw.
- Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear.
- Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally and he is fully awake.
- Do not offer the person water or food until fully alert
- Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns.
- Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if he seems confused or unable to get home without help
By knowing basic seizure first aid, you could literally save a life.
For more on how pumpkins are being used to tell stories and raise awareness, click here.
[Image via The Epilepsy Group]