A good sense of humor helps in coping with epilepsy

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    Dougherty says his sense of humor is a good coping skill.  (Jeanette Woods for The Pulse)

    Dougherty says his sense of humor is a good coping skill. (Jeanette Woods for The Pulse)

    In this week’s Patient Files, epilepsy advocate Dan Dougherty talks about the need for a light heart when dealing with a heavy diagnosis.

    Dan Dougherty is on a mission to educate people about the disorder that changed his life 32 years ago. Dougherty is an epilepsy advocate and public speaker who informs groups about the neurological disorder, giving them the facts, sharing stories and distributing information about how to help someone who is having a seizure.

    The 42-year-old says his first seizure occurred when he was 10 while sledding down a hill in the Olney section of Philadelphia. He got very dizzy, more than the normal feeling of a fast downhill run. The last thing he remembered of the experience was the world spinning.

    While there are many drugs and treatments that can lessen or prevent seizures, Dougherty’s form of epilepsy has proven difficult to treat, and his seizures are not easily controlled by medication. He is unable to drive and sometimes feels socially isolated.

    Dougherty says he inherited a good sense of humor from his grandfather, which helps him cope.

    “Humor goes a long way in dealing with the seizures and changing medications, constantly having to go to the doctors and all that.” He is also involved with the leadership development organization Toastmasters International, and Dougherty credits them with inspiring him to become a public speaker.

    Some of the music heard under Dougherty’s audio interview above was generated from a pattern of human brain waves formed during an actual seizure. The brain waves were transferred into sound waves by Chris Chafe and Josef Parviz of Stanford University. You can listen to their composition above, and click here to learn more about their work “sonifying” brain waves.

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