Colby and Luke Birkes, twin brothers from Winchester, are leading the initiative to make Morehead State the first Seizure Smart University in the state. Through the implementation of training programs provided by the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana, this initiative will improve awareness and increase access to care for those with epilepsy.
“We want to make Morehead State University a Seizure Smart School not only for the first aid aspect, but also to dispel rumors. Some people still think epilepsy is contagious,” said Colby. “Getting people to understand that people with epilepsy can live full and successful lives is our main goal.”
Luke has been living with epilepsy for 15 years and has made it his personal mission to help others struggling with epilepsy. While in high school, Luke served as the Kentucky representative for Teens Speak Up, a conference sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation that teaches attendees how to actively promote epilepsy awareness in their community. Luke is now bringing that advocacy to Morehead State’s campus.
Luke described the moment he saw a need for Seizure Smart training at Morehead State.
“During my sophomore year, a girl was having a seizure during class and the professor didn’t know what to do. So, one other student and I had to handle the situation and perform basic first aid. She ended up leaving college because her parents didn’t trust the people around her to keep her safe. I didn’t want that to happen to anyone else.”
Over four weeks of training during the spring 2019 semester, all campus police officers and 50 faculty members were trained in seizure recognition and first aid. Seizure smart trainings will continue during the fall 2019 semester and will be open to faculty, staff and students. The Seizure Smart curriculum will be included in resident advisor training for the new school year.
Beth Stivers, director of education for the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana, said, “Parents worry when their child with epilepsy goes off to college. It is scary to think that no one will know what to do if a seizure occurs. By becoming a Seizure Smart School, the student as well as the parent will have confidence and know that the child will be safe.”
Individuals who complete Seizure Smart training will be able to recognize common types of seizures, identify the types of impacts that seizures have on students, list first aid steps for helping students having a seizure and describe basic aspects of social and academic support for students with seizures.
“We are creating an environment not only where people with epilepsy feel safe coming to college, they can feel accepted and understood,” said Colby. “We want every student to prosper and find success here.”