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Local doctor to host patient education program on SUDEP

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

The Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia is teaming with Winchester Neurological Consultants to offer community members education pertaining to sudden unexplained death in epilepsy.

"We've had calls and emails from patients who are very concerned," said Gina Washington, NW and NOVA Regional Director for the foundation. "SUDEP is ... well, it's sensitive."

Washington explained that due to recent media coverage of SUDEP and the concern that followed, the foundation wanted to provide something for patients that would calm their fears and provide the facts surrounding the condition.

Dr. Paul Lyons, neurologist and epileptologist, will provide the patient education from 7-8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7 at Valley Health Wellness and Fitness Center. Light refreshments will be provided.

Invitation to the program is extended to those with seizure disorders, as well as their family members, Washington said.

"When people hear that 55,000 people experience SUDEP in the U.S., and they're newly diagnosed with epilepsy, it brings concerns. A parent will say, 'My child was just diagnosed with epilepsy, is she going to die,'" she said. "But the risk is actually minimal, and it varies with different types of epilepsy."

Washington said that the foundation supports the right of a patient to know about SUDEP, but feels that the topic should be discussed at the neurologist level.

"Normally, the doctor will talk about it if there's concern," she said. "Otherwise, you'll have people worrying who don't need to be."

SUDEP is not something that can be predicted, she added.

"My oldest daughter is 25 and has epilepsy, and the chance of her dying from SUDEP is the same as my chance at dying from a car accident in the next 20 years," she said. But, it's a horrible thing to lose a child, so we understand why the topic has caused some alarm."

If anything, the session will not only provide good information from a doctor well-versed in epilepsy, but it will also give patients and their families a chance to meet with others going through similar situations.

To register or to learn more about Thursday's program, Washington can be reached at 908-3400.

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