eQ is committed to raising local awareness of epilepsy, a neurological disease that affects 70 million people worldwide and 1 in 100 Canadians, more than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease combined. Although it is a fairly common disease, only a very small portion of government funding is dedicated to diagnosing and treating epilepsy. Northern BC has no epileptologists (doctors who specialize in epilepsy treatment) and few neurologists. At present, most northerners must travel long distances to places like Vancouver in order to receive epilepsy treatment, and wait lists for care and surgery are long. eQ seeks to change this by helping to raise funds for two more SIU rooms and facilitate faster, better treatment for epilepsy patients throughout the province.
As a provincial Purple Day Ambassador, Natasha and eQ support Epilepsy Awareness Month each March and “Purple Day” on March 26, a global day devoted to public education and supporting those living with epilepsy. This is done not only through fundraising but also raising awareness and helping to break the stigma surrounding epilepsy. Donations to the VGH Epilepsy Clinic/Seizure Investigation Unit can be made online by visiting www.tinyurl.com/natashas-story.
Photos by Annie Gallant/Quesnel Observer
Meet Natasha Wasmuth
Meet Natasha Wasmuth
When Natasha Wasmuth began having seizures at the age of 15, it changed her life in a profound way. Over time, many things that seemed like a given, like getting a drivers licence, choosing a career or one day having children, became more uncertain. The frequency and intensity of Natasha’s seizures only increased as the years went on, making day to day living challenging for her. For 17 years Natasha went through many different medication changes in an attempt to bring the seizures under control, until Valentine’s Day in 2011 when a lesion was found on her brain. To determine if she was a possible brain surgery candidate, Natasha was put on the waiting list for the Vancouver General Hospital adult Seizure Investigation Unit (VGH SIU).
After a long 14-month wait, Natasha spent her first night in the SIU. It took 17 days for her to have enough seizures to determine that she was a suitable candidate for surgery. Her procedure took place in August 2013, and though it has been a long recovery, Natasha now has her independence back.
Sadly, many patients wait years for an assessment at BC’s one and only SIU, and Natasha was floored that, despite the high rate of epilepsy (over 40,000 patients in BC alone), there are only two beds dedicated to this type of care. Learning this was her motivation for starting epilepsyQuesnel (eQ) in 2014, to help VGH Epilepsy Clinic’s current goal of two additional rooms. For many epilepsy patients, medication doesn’t work, leaving surgery as the only hope, and as every seizure causes damage to the brain, Natasha says, “the long wait is unacceptable.”
Since it began fundraising, eQ has put this small northern city on the map as a place that cares about the cause of epilepsy diagnosis and treatment. In fact, it is the only city in northern BC that is raising money for this area of health care at VGH, a hospital that serves the entire province with dedicated specialists for a variety of conditions and diseases. Quesnel, says Natasha, “is a very close-knit city and the way our residents want to help others is nothing short of stellar.”
She hopes by raising funds and awareness through eQ that many other epilepsy sufferers in BC will be able to receive the same kind of life-changing care that she did in a more timely manner. “The SIU gives answers that can’t be found through any other avenue.” said Natasha. “We will work on this until rooms 3 and 4 are in, and the wait list for lives to be saved is cut in half.”