Every year on March 26, people from around the world are invited to wear purple and host events in support of epilepsy awareness. Purple Day is an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about this neurological disease characterized by epileptic seizures.

“Purple and lavender are the colours often associated with epilepsy,” explained Dr. Jose Tellez-Zenteno, Adult Chair of the Saskatchewan Epilepsy Program.

Approximately 50 million people world-wide have epilepsy, and in 50 per cent of cases, the cause is unknown.

RR-2016-03-17-Purple-DayCassidy Megan came up with the idea of Purple Day in 2008, motivated by her own struggles with epilepsy. Cassidy’s goal is to get people talking about epilepsy in an effort to dispel myths and inform those with seizures that they are not alone. The Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia came on board in 2008 to help develop Cassidy’s idea which is now known as the Purple Day for Epilepsy campaign.

In 2009, Purple Day was launched internationally, and since then, celebrations have been occurring across Canada. In the last few years, apart from increasing awareness of epilepsy, Purple Day is used to communicate new research findings from epilepsy programs and to fundraise for equipment and research in epilepsy.

This year, Purple Day celebrations at Royal University Hospital (RUH) in Saskatoon will be taking placed on March 24, in the main mall area. A booth is being set up to offer epilepsy awareness information, and staff will be available for people to meet with and talk to. The event is being supported by the Royal University Hospital Foundation.

“The main purpose of this event is to increase awareness of epilepsy. Participating in Purple Day is just one way that the Saskatchewan Epilepsy Program helps to promote further development of treatment and programs for the people of Saskatchewan,” noted Dr. Tellez.

Purple Day at RUH will also include some furry friends. The Lions Foundation of Canada is bringing seizure dogs to the celebration. A demonstration of how a seizure dog acts when a patient is having a seizure will take place over the noon hour, and patients and the public will be able to have their photo taken with the dogs in both the morning and afternoon.

There are two types of seizure dogs: Seizure Alert Dogs and Seizure Response Dogs. Seizure Alert Dogs are dogs that demonstrate specific behaviour prior to a person’s epileptic seizure, explained Dr. Tellez.

Seizure Response Dogs are dogs that demonstrate natural assisting behaviour and have been trained as service dogs to help people with epilepsy both during and immediately after their epileptic seizure. Their tasks may include finding someone to help, activating an emergency response system, stimulating a person to help them wake after a seizure, or acting as a brace to help the person up. They could also be trained to retrieve a phone or medication, or physically remove a person from an unsafe situation, such as the middle of the street.

“Seizure response and alerting behaviour may spontaneously develop in dogs living with children and adults with epilepsy,” said Dr. Tellez.