Does the marking of so many days take away from the actual cause?

Practically every day of the calendar is now a ‘day’ of some sort — generally, the observation or celebration of a cause. But, does the marking of so many ‘days’ take away from the actual cause itself?

At a recent function, V. Shantha, chairperson, Cancer Institute, Adyar, said there may be many such days, but each served the purpose of allowing people to re-dedicate themselves to a cause, to remember what it was they were working towards.

The period beginning from March 21 to April 2 has three such days — World TB Day (March 24), World Epilepsy Day (March 26) and World Autism Day (April 2).

This year, We Can, a resource centre that provides services to children with autism spectrum disorders, is focussing on the community, which, in India, is estimated to cover two million people.

“While there has been a significant rise in awareness about autism since we first started in 2001, it remains a hidden disability. Still, there are parents who tell us that until their child was diagnosed they had never heard of autism. This year, we want to get more people in the community involved,” says Gita Srikanth, director, We Can.

Parvathy Viswanath, founder of Aikya, a centre for special children, says days such as these help spread awareness.

“On these days, something common binds us — those affected by the condition and their caregivers. And that is a special bond,” she adds.

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March 26 was ‘Purple Day’, observed to create awareness on epilepsy. Increasing awareness is crucial for a neurological disorder like epilepsy, which is still surrounded by myths and misconceptions.

“Nearly 30 per cent of the population thinks epilepsy is a mental illness, while 12-15 per cent thinks it is contagious. About 15 per cent attribute it to ancestral sins,” says Dinesh Nayak, senior consultant, Neurology and epileptologist, Fortis Malar Hospital.

Epilepsy can be caused by an injury to the brain, for instance, a head injury sustained in a road accident or due to difficult labour and infections.

When someone suffers a seizure, as immediate help, he/she is given a bunch of keys. But doctors say this is useless. “What people should know is that nine out of 10 times, an epileptic fit will stop on its own in two minutes,” says Dr. Nayak.

Epilepsy can be controlled with medication in 80 per cent of patients. Of them, in 50 per cent, medication can be withdrawn after two to five years. “During a seizure, a person should not be restrained as it might cause fractures. They should be made to lie on one side so they do not gag on saliva,” says S. Velusamy, professor, paediatric neurology, Government Stanley Medical College Hospital.

chennaidesk@thehindu.co.in

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