Life is full of teachable moments. Three years ago, optician Raymond Mirzabegian, an optical dispensing instructor at American Career College’s Los Angeles campus, mentioned to his class that he had an epileptic child.
It was just an aside in a lesson on eye muscles and seizures, but after class, student after student came up to tell him about some instance of epilepsy in their family. Those conversations gave Mirzabegian—who has been involved in epilepsy awareness since the birth of Emily, his 9-year-old daughter—an idea that has turned into an annual classroom seminar.
“Every March 26, which is Epilepsy Awareness Day, I set aside a half-hour,” says Mirzabegian. “I ask students, ‘Suppose the person next to you were to have a seizure? What would you do?’”
Most people, he says, are unaware that the best First Aid is to roll the person onto their side, cushion their head, make sure they can breathe—and then time them. “Seizures often look very scary, but they’re not that bad if they’re less than five minutes, and often the person will get back up and continue with that they were doing,” he says.
That information and more was presented last month to some four dozen faculty and students on ACC’s Los Angeles campus, where Mirzabegian’s Etalk has become an annual observance: “We all wore purple in honor of Epilepsy Awareness Day,” says Kari Cheevers, ACC program director for optical dispensing. “It was phenomenal.”
“Obviously, this is a medically oriented college, and any First Aid awareness is good,” says Mirzabegian. But, he added, so is awareness of a neurological disorder that, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, affects some 2.2 million Americans and is more prevalent than autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease put together.
“Every time I do the session, students come up to tell me their personal stories,” he says. “It’s a very common condition, but rarely spoken about.”