DENVER — It's a problem that's happened before in Colorado: someone has a seizure, and then finds themself in trouble with the law.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado CEO Sara Klein, physicians, patient family members, and the patients themselves have reached out to her organization about similar experiences in the last couple of months.
"A seizure can look like wandering around aimlessly. A seizure can look like muscle spams, or staring off into space blankly. Sometimes when someone is having a seizure, it can look like resisting arrest," Klein said.
Klein also said this doesn't apply only to people in public.
Cheryl Trines, an attorney, told 9NEWS she is involved in two ongoing cases like this with Colorado inmates. She said they didn't receive the right medical care while having seizures and ended up with permanent brain damage.
"The prisoner could go into status epilepticus, which is continued seizures," said Trines.
Trines, who is an advocate of more training, said she's focused on facility medical staff. She said that in some cases, staff might suspect an inmate or prisoner is faking a seizure.
"I don't know which part of that is lack of training, versus a determined, deliberate indifference," she said.
The Epilepsy Foundation said they did a comprehensive training for law enforcement across the Front Range around seven years ago.
"It's difficult often to know the difference between drunk and disorderly behavior and a seizure," said Kelin.
The training happened at about the same time Aurora police arrested a man in 2012 who they thought was drunk, but was actually having a seizure.
Since then, the Aurora Police Department has undergone training every year to identify a seizure. They don't know of any repeats of the same problem since then.
Denver police are trained to call paramedics during a medical emergency but don't have specific epilepsy training.
In an e-mail, the department said:
"Officers train to make sure they can arrest a suspect in a safe manner for all. If a medical emergency arises from a situation where a person is combative, paramedics are called to assist with the medical emergency once the situation is stabilized. When a suspect has been arrested on the ground, Officers are also trained to put the subject on their side (in situations like this) to prevent positional asphyxiation. This training is emphasized for recruit officers as well as continuing education for officers already on the street."
In Weld County, the sheriff's department said it contracted out to medical staff in the past, focusing on signs someone was having a seizure, what to look for, and how to help the person.
They also talk about this every year during CPR training.
As for Colorado, there is no mandatory training to recognize the signs of an epileptic seizure.
The foundation said they haven't done training in several years but that now might be the time for them to do more.
"As things like this pop up, maybe we need to be more proactive instead of waiting for them to ask us," Klein said.
Klein said the training isn't just for law enforcement agencies, but correctional facilities and medical staff, as well.
The Epilepsy Foundation does provide this training material online for free.
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