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Epilepsy: Overcoming Stigma, Shining The Light

As a child, she fell, was diagnosed later with epilepsy.  She could never have dreamt of telling her story, to help others with epilepsy.

“Since then, my health was been unstable. My performance in primary was very poor, my body did not permit me to move. I had over 15 crises in a month”, Praise Bessong narrated her childhood experience with epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable disease of the brain characterized by recurrent seizures, which are brief episodes of involuntary movement that may involve a part of the body (partial) or the entire body (generalized) and are sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness and control of bowel or bladder function, accord to WHO.

Around the world, 50 million people have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases. Nearly 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in low and middle income countries.

In Cameroon, health officials say epilepsy is found the ten regions, with endemic zones being Batibo in the Northwest, Ntui in the Centre region among others.

The prevalence of epilepsy in Cameroon might be the highest in the world. Figures of between 4·9% and 6% are commonly quoted, although values of over 10% have been reported for some areas,  a medical journal, The Lancet suggests.

Bessong has been sensitizing her community that people who suffer for epilepsy are not inferior and should not be stigmatized.

“I would fall in class and friends would be like, it has started again, that her thing has started, attributing the fainting fit to something mystical.  I kept to myself and was different in class”, Bessong recalls how she suffered stigmatized.

Thanks to the support from her family, Bessong has been able face her fears-epilepsy, and is now shining the light for persons suffering from epilepsy.

“I take part in outreach programmes, sensitizing those who are also suffering from Epilepsy. On the International Day of Epilepsy in February 2021, I visited persons with epilepsy at the Baptist hospital, encourage them to take their medication, to sleep on time, have proper rest and to stop feeling that epilepsy is not mystical”, the University of Yaoundé 1 student said.

Bessong understands the importance of following a strict diet as this helps to reduce the frequency of crisis and seizures.

You have to accept your health challenge, she advises, “Stress can increase the sickness. Proper rest, sleeping very early, following the doctor’s instructions, eat enough fruits; strenuous work like drawing water from the well is not allowed”.

For those younger persons still in school, she says “read gradually not to over stress as it leads you to have crisis, read on daily basis”.

An undergraduate student of the University of Yaoundé 1 with a GPA of 3,72 /4, Bessong hopes to graduate this year with flying colours. She is also an enterprising person who on her spare time prints t-shirts.

Her daily companion, “The Mighty Tree of Epilepsy’, which contains first aid measures and flyers are some of her sensitization tools.

Bessong is proud of the strong person she has become. “Thanks to the Community Development and Epilepsy Foundation, CODEF, I  uphold my moral standards and can move with my head high to tell the world that i suffer from epilepsy”, Bessong stressed.

Community work and sensitization earned Bessong, the International Golden Light Award, from CODEF, on September 23, 2021

The Golden Light Award is given to young persons living with epilepsy who have impacted other persons with epilepsy & community, Nsom Kenneth, CODEF Coordinator said.

“Advocating for the cause of her organization, for other persons with epilepsy to fight stigmas & visiting hospitals and orphanages in Yaoundé with gifts for children there”, earned her the award, Nsom stated.

 

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