Purple Day founder Cassidy Megan at the House of Commons with Halifax West MP Geoff Regan in 2013 (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
Every year on March 26, Canada celebrates Purple Day, an opportunity to raise awareness about epilepsy and dispel some common misconceptions about those with the condition. The organizers are asking everyone to wear purple tomorrow and to host or attend events in support of epilepsy awareness.
Purple Day was founded in 2008 by Cassidy Megan, a nine-year-old student from just outside Halifax. The previous year, she'd learned that she had epilepsy, but was afraid to tell her schoolmates. So her parents invited Iris Elliott of the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia to come speak to her class about the condition. Right after that, Elliott told Strombo.com, Cassidy told her classmates that she had epilepsy, and was overwhelmed by the positive support and questions.
"The next year, she asked her mom, 'Is there any kind of day for people with epilepsy?'" says Elliott. Her mom told her principal about the idea, and soon, Purple Day was born (the colour was a grade-schooler's approximation of lavender, the colour for epilepsy).
The event has grown by leaps and bounds since then. In 2012, Canadian Parliament passed the Purple Day Act, officially recognizing March 26 as Purple Day. Last year it was celebrated in over 70 countries, and this year, an estimated 1,000 ambassadors will spread the word from Wasilla, Alaska to Harare, Zimbabwe.
Epilepsy is a brain condition characterized by recurring seizures, which can range from short and undetected to long and vigorous. It's not a psychological disorder, nor a communicable disease. According to Purpleday.org, there are more than 300,000 Canadians living with epilepsy, and while there is no "cure" for the disease, surgery or medication can alleviate seizures for many patients.
One of the big pushes behind Purple Day, Elliott told Strombo.com, is to get the word out about what to do if you see someone having a seizure. This handy chart, from the Edmonton Epilepsy Association, gives a good overview: