New Jersey has a new seizure first aid awareness law. A local teen helped make it happen

The legislation was inspired by 17-year-old Paul St. Pierre of Maple Shade.

Listen :59
Paul St. Pierre, left, and NJ Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, right, pose for a photo

Paul St. Pierre and N.J. Assemblyman Lou Greenwald during a legislative voting session. (Courtesy of Colleen Quinn)

From Camden and Cherry Hill to Trenton and the Jersey Shore, what about life in New Jersey do you want WHYY News to cover? Let us know.

New Jersey has a new law that requires seizure first-aid information to be disseminated to all businesses.

According to bill sponsor Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, roughly 92,000 state residents have epilepsy, and 10% of them will experience a seizure in their lifetime.

He said under the new law the Department of Health will create educational material that  explains what people should do if someone is having a seizure.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“That would be distributed to all employers, posted online, and the Department of Labor is responsible for making the pamphlet available to all employers,” he said.

Greenwald was inspired to sponsor the legislation by 17-year-old Paul St. Pierre of Maple Shade.

The teen, who first suffered a seizure when he was 12 years old, says seizure first aid awareness is crucial.

“When people are having a seizure, say like at a job, you [and others] just don’t know what to do and you’re scared, but thank the Lord that we passed this law,” St. Pierre said.

Greenwald said this issue resonated with him because his own daughter, Lauren, developed epilepsy at the age of 12.

“My daughter is remarkably managed, she graduated from law school, took the bar in July, passed the bar and did overwhelmingly well on the bar exam,” he said. “There really isn’t anything that you can’t do with this disability.”

But some types of epilepsy are more severe than others.

Liza Gundell, the CEO of Epilepsy Services of New Jersey, said the disorder can be dangerous, especially for people who have one or more seizures every day, and may hurt themselves falling.

She said some individuals “have seizures involving the whole brain, those seizures have a beginning, a middle and an end and providing seizure first aid is important, but if the person having the seizure is pregnant or they’ve never had one, call 911.”

Epilepsy Services of New Jersey has provided seizure first-aid training to more than 110,000 people over the past 3 years.

Their Seizure First Aid poster recommends the acronym TRUST, which stands for: turn person on their side, remove objects like eye glasses and ties, use something soft under their head, stay calm and stay with the person, and time the seizure — if it lasts more than 5 minutes, call 911.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
The Seizure First Aid TRUST poster
The Seizure First Aid TRUST poster. (Courtesy of Epilepsy Services of New Jersey)

Greenwald said for people who may experience fewer seizures than others, “making sure that they take their medication obviously is a big part of it, limiting access to screen time with the blue light is a big part of it.”

In 2020 Paul and his mother Colleen Quinn formed an organization known as Paul’s Purple Warriors.

Paul St. Pierre, right, with his mother Colleen Quinn, left
Paul St. Pierre with his mother Colleen Quinn. (Courtesy of Paul St. Pierre)

The group then worked with Greenwald on a measure approved by the legislature known as Paul’s Law. It requires all school personnel to be trained in seizure recognition and first aid, and mandates schools to develop an individualized seizure action plan for each student who has epilepsy.

More recently, in the summer of 2021, Paul and Colleen urged Greenwald to sponsor a new bill to require seizure first aid information be given to all employers.

St. Pierre said people who have seizures need to know others are aware of their condition and will be there to help them.

“Don’t feel alone because you have people that love you, that are by your side,” he said.

Greenwald said once employers have been given information about seizure first aid, they will hopefully display the material so everyone can see it, although this would not be mandated.

While epilepsy is the most common condition that causes seizures, they may also be caused by head trauma, a high fever, or severe infection.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal