- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2000

What did Alexander the Great, Socrates and Joan of Arc have in common? Besides being famous historical figures, they are thought to have suffered from the neurological disorder epilepsy. They certainly were not alone. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 180,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.
The foundation has been on line for more than four years, and its Web site offers an eclectic mix of source material and hope for individuals and families struggling with this very difficult health problem.

The Epilepsy Foundation

Site address: www.epilepsyfoundation.org

Creator:

The Epilepsy Foundation, a national nonprofit voluntary health agency, is based in Landover.

Creator quotable:

"We want to make epilepsy information more widely available to people affected by seizures and also to the general public. Epilepsy affects all aspects of a person's life, and there is a lot of misinformation out there," says Eric R. Hargis, the foundation's president and chief executive officer.
"Our site offers accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date information to answer people's questions, provide opportunities for personal contact and help people with epilepsy and seizures achieve a better quality of life."

Word from the Webwise:

The Epilepsy Foundation builds on more than 30 years experience in serving its targeted community. Content on the Web site has been culled from its board of professional advisers, leaders in epilepsy research and major academic and clinical care centers around the country.
A well-organized but slightly repetitive front page presents the volunteer health agency's agenda through nine sections "About Us," "Answer Place," "Research," "Advocacy," "Services," "Giving," "EpilepsyUSA News," "ECommunities" and "Marketplace."
The spot richest in content and filled with the most helpful advice to anyone struggling with the disorder can be found within "Answer Place." This voluminous, almost encyclopedic source explains and dispels myths using an avalanche of information organized in 21 categories.
Visitors can get information on such topics as seizure recognition, employment, treatments and first aid or peruse "By Audience" to see how this problem, characterized by a repeated malfunction in the electrical system that controls the brain, can affect everyone from adults to infants.
Knowing almost nothing about epilepsy, I quickly learned how to spot the various types of seizures and the importance of a safe, simple and painless test, the electroencephalograph (EEG), that helps with diagnosis.
I also found out about an interesting method of controlling seizures when medications do not work, called vagus nerve stimulation. It involves sending small pulses of electrical energy to the brain by surgically implanting a device the size of a silver dollar in the chest wall.
Maybe more important, "Answer Place" explores topics that one might not even consider about epilepsy. A section for teachers thoroughly explains handling a seizure and dealing with students who may witness one. Even baby sitters get instructions on first aid, and police officers can find a breakdown of what to do if a suspect taken into custody has convulsions.
Another great resource on the site comes from selected articles culled from the foundation's monthly color magazine, EpilepsyUSA. The magazine presents a nice mix of news to educate and enlighten, ranging from raising a child with epilepsy to surgery for those over 50 to a first-person narrative about dating with epilepsy.
Ease of use: This may sound strange, but I had to do a bit of digging to find out the exact definition of epilepsy. Only after reading a massive end-of-the-millennium report hidden at the bottom of the "EpilepsyUSA" section index did I understand its intricacies and enormous impact on society.
Despite the annoyance, I found that the site's many active lists, menus and message boards and a search engine helped pinpoint information and answer questions.

Don't miss:

Developed mainly for physicians and nurses to improve patient treatment, the newly created minisite "Center for Clinical Care" (accessible through an icon found on the site's front page) contains an excellent resource for knowledgeable individuals taking anti-epileptic medications. A drop-down menu found under its treatment section lists 16 drugs and explains dosage, effect, interactions and results.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

The site currently does not have a section for younger visitors. However, next month, the foundation will begin offering "Kid's Club," a place that will present games and activities to help preteens to learn about seizures and how the brain functions.

Overall grade: B

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (joseph@twtmail.com).

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