KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – It’s something no family should go through, the passing of a child. Still fresh in the minds of many across the country is the death of young Disney Channel star Cameron Boyce.
Boyce died Saturday in his sleep after a seizure at the age of 20, Boyce’s family says he had epilepsy.
“A lot of times people will die from having seizures that seem perfectly healthy,” said Paula Ellis with the Epilepsy Foundation of East Tennessee.
Ellis says taking medication on time is critical with epilepsy and preventing Sudden Unexpected Death (SUPED) in epilepsy patients.
“When you’re having a seizure part of the first aid is turning somebody over on their side so that their tongue does not block their airway,” said Sarah Ammons with the Epilepsy Foundation of East Tennessee. “Well if you’re asleep – there’s no one there to witness you having a seizure so they can’t turn you over on your side and you can suffocate.”
Getting in touch with resources like the Epilepsy Foundation of East Tennessee can make living with the disease more manageable.
“A lot of people in East Tennessee don’t have health insurance and you know if they don’t have health insurance and they have epilepsy they need us to step in and help them pay for a neurological visit, which we can do,” said Ammons.
Epilepsy is an electrical disturbance in the brain, 70-percent of people who have epilepsy don’t know what causes their seizures and there are more than 30-types related to the disease.
“There’s a stigma behind epilepsy, you know we didn’t know that this famous actor had epilepsy and he died from it in his sleep,” said Ammons. “And even after it was found he lost his life to a seizure his family didn’t feel comfortable at first coming forward and saying he has epilepsy and that’s what caused this.”
Ammons says there is no shame to be had with epilepsy and even though there is no cure for it – there is support out there.
“The negative side of is somebody lost their life… the positive is someone that is in the spotlight – through a tragedy – is bringing attention to a disorder that means so much to so many people,” Ammons added.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation of East Tennessee, there are 44,000 people in East Tennessee living with epilepsy.