Epilepsy Blog Relay: The story of the Mahenge Epilepsy Clinic

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™, which will run from June 1 to June 30, 2018.  Follow along!

Mahenge Epilepsy Clinic

It started in the late 1950’s when Dr. Louise Jilek-Aall discovered an unusually high number of outcasts from the Wapogoro tribe in the Mahenge Mountains, Tanzania. These outcasts suffered from Kifafa, Swahili for epilepsy. The people with kifafa were feared and shunned, as the tribe believed evil spirits caused convulsions. It was noted that even many times their own families wouldn’t assist them during seizures out of fear that they too would become possessed. Because of this, epilepsy patients also suffered from physical wounds such as, fire burns, scrapes, head injuries, bruising, and in some cases death from downing or prolonged exposure to fire. There was no access to medical treatment and no knowledge of the disorder, so the patients lead miserable, lonely lives in fear of their next seizure.

Dr. Louise Jilek-Aall founded the “Mahenge Epilepsy Clinic” in 1960 after bearing witness to this suffering. Changing the lives for hundreds suffering from epilepsy and enlightening the community on the disorder. In the first two years, 200 patients were treated with AEDs (antiepileptic drugs).

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