Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What do you know about epilepsy? A significant part of this book,

By Ada Brownell

In my soon-to-be released book, Peach Blossom Rancher, one significant character is a medical doctor who had a seizure after a head injury. Dr. Dillon Haskill has been in the state asylum four years. He’s housed in a crowded ward, but he helps James Cook, a teacher, sent to the asylum because he’s paralyzed, and Pete, a young boy with Down’s Syndrome who often is abused by other patients.

In the early 1900s people like these three were thought to be imbeciles or demon possessed.

The only time I’ve seen a person have a seizure was during a high school graduation. The newspaper I worked for published reports on Graduation ceremonies, including snippets of the valedictorian’s speech.

A shrill scream pieced the air, and several people ran to the girl, dressed in a graduation gown. I wasn’t close, but from where I stood, a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, I saw her become rigid, shudder and shake violently. She appeared unconscious.

The people around her, I think paramedics, two or three on each side, picked her up and carried her out, and in only minutes all was quiet and the celebration continued as if nothing happened.

Later, someone told me the school prepared for such an event. Sometimes the girl’s seizures were triggered by excitement.

I’ve known parents who had a child plagued by seizures, and they could tell in advance when one was coming on and they’d take the person to a private area, and in a fairly short time it was over.

The seizures began in one of the young men I knew when he had a high sustained fever as an infant, which caused brain damage. Doctors then often called what happened convulsions.

Throughout history seizures were not well understood. Even in the early 20th Century people afflicted by  convulsions were often thought to be demon possessed. Then it was thought to be a form of insanity.

In 400 B.C. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, offered another view of epilepsy, that it was just another natural disease and could be treated through natural methods.

In a report from the psychology department of North Dakota State University, Robert Bentley Todd in 1849 was the first to present the electrical theory of epilepsy. John Hughlings Jackson in 1873, however, is credited for devising the theory. When Hans Berger invented the electroencephalogram in the 1930s, during an epileptic seizure the EEG showed the problem originated in the brain and was electrical.

Drugs were developed and over the decades a number of effective treatments became available, including surgical removal of a damaged section of the brain, and today even a device similar to a heart pacemaker sometimes helps.

I learned about epilepsy and the different treatments as a medical reporter. But another thing I learned is that epilepsy is a specific condition and seizures can be caused by other problems such as brain tumors and other events.

I interviewed a Christian psychiatrist about the difference between mental illness and demon possession in his patients.

“It’s sometime difficult to determine the difference,” he said. “But I pray for them all.“

The bottom line seemed to be that mental illness and seizures are a physical problem that occurs in the brain, while demon possession is a spiritual problem.

I think you will enjoy Peach Blossom Rancher.

Here’s the book summary:


The Peach Blossom Rancher, an historical romance

Sequel to The Lady Fugitive, second in Peaches and Dreams series

By Ada Brownell

A handsome young man with a ranch in ruin and a brilliant doctor confined to an insane asylum because of one seizure. Yet their lives intersect.

John Lincoln Parks yearns for a wife to help rebuild the ranch and eyes Valerie MacDougal, a young widow.

Will John marry Valerie or Edwina Jorgenson, the feisty rancher-neighbor who he constantly fusses with? This neighbor who has a Peeping Tom whose bootprints are like the person’s who dumped a body in John’s barn. Will John even marry, or be hanged for the murder?

Look for the release July 2016 by

Also available on Amazon