Purple — and lots of it! That is the color Mallory Strong, fifth-grade student at Tompkinsville Elementary School, saw when she walked into her classroom this past Tuesday. She was pleasantly surprised by classmates and her teacher, Whittany Shaw, who sported the bright color in her honor.
Purple Day, held annually on March 26, was celebrated recently in dozens of countries and right here in Monroe County, with Mallory’s friends picking out special outfits to show their love and support.
The special day, also known as Epilepsy Awareness Day, was started in 2008 by Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada, to encourage awareness of epilepsy and to cast away some of the myths that cloud the general public’s view of the condition.
Approximately 50 million people around the world live with epilepsy. The condition is not contagious, and in many cases, there is no known cause. Sometimes the reason is due to disease or injury such as stroke or infection. It is a treatable condition, but it can be confusing especially for children.
Mallory was diagnosed with epilepsy in January of 2011 at the age of 4, having over 1000 petit mal epileptic seizures per day. Since that time, she has failed several medications and has been diagnosed with light sensitivity and myoclonic jerks which are seizures in her sleep. She failed some medications due to side effects and others because they did not help her in general. Her specific seizures are generalized, which means surgery is not an option.
Unfortunately, this means if Mallory does not outgrow the condition or at least the seizures, medications and doctor appointments will always be a part of her future. Her daily life is affected in many ways, including her school work and extracurricular activities.
The seizures also affect her concentration in school as well as her attendance. Extracurricular activities such as sports, parties or dances can cause her to have a seizure. So much in her environment, including lighting and other sensory stimulations can affect everything she does, and this causes her to miss out on a lot of activities.
Mallory says she feels that no one understands how hard it is to live with epilepsy and she hopes one day to be seizure free.
Mallory’s parents Wes and Tabitha Strong, along with her brother Ryan and many other family members have supported Mallory each step of the way on her journey to be seizure free. “Watching your child struggle each and every day with any illness is the hardest thing a parent can go through. Watching her not being able to function like most kids from day to day is one of the hardest things we have ever had to do. Unlike most kids she seems to sleep a lot and misses out on so much,” her mom shares, continuing “but with the help of many great doctors and teachers we hope we are on the right path with medications and school work.”
Mallory’s teacher, Whittany Shaw, who has also played a very important role in helping her to succeed is proud of the strides she continues to make, noting “Her last name says it all. She has to be STRONG and overcome the battles that the epilepsy can cause. She’s a great student that works very hard. I’m so lucky I get to be her teacher!”
Mallory’s parents loved seeing the support from her friends at school on the 26th and encourage their community to learn more about Epilepsy, saying “I ask if you haven’t read up on epilepsy, please do so. It isn’t just falling on the floor jerking all over. It is a lot more than that and causes a lot of different types of seizures. Many things trigger them, and a lot of side effects are caused by the medications.”
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder, affecting both males and females of all ages and all ethnicities, in which abnormal brain activity causes seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness. Symptoms vary widely with some of those affected simply staring blankly for a few seconds and others repeatedly twitching their arms or legs. At least two unprovoked seizures are usually required for an epilepsy diagnosis. The majority can be treated with medications or sometimes surgery with some requiring lifetime treatment and others eventually outgrowing the condition.
Mallory is the daughter of Wesley and Tabitha Strong, and a sister to Ryan, Gamaliel.
We also asked our readers to share pictures of their purple outfits worn to celebrate the day. Below are several submissions of others suffering from this condition. Many who are seizure free and some still hoping to one day be.
For more information on Epilepsy visit the Epilepsy Foundation website at https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics/what-epilepsy.