Fifty million people around the world have epilepsy, and the vast majority – 80 percent – live in the developing world. In many low-income countries, the disease is poorly understood and there’s a huge diagnosis and treatment gap.
EEG technologist Trei King is one of a growing number of healthcare providers in the U.S. dedicated to closing that gap. He hopes that by sharing his passion for this work, he’ll motivate other techs to get involved.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), three-quarters of epileptics living in low-income countries do not get the treatment they need. This treatment gap causes incalculable and unnecessary personal suffering and impacts social and economic development. Misinformation about the disease also abounds – epilepsy, for example, is often thought to be contagious and it carries great stigma, resulting in human rights violations.
These issues have led to the development of the WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap, which is currently being implemented in four countries: Ghana, Mozambique, Myanmar and Vietnam.
King, director of neuromonitoring at Children’s of Alabama, spoke about this initiative at the most recent annual meeting of ASET-The Neurodiagnostic Society. He did so to share resources and encourage others to take part in these efforts – this work, he says, has changed his life and given his job as an EEG tech new meaning.
Burnout is high among healthcare workers and trips like the WHO program can offer an opportunity to recharge as well as gain perspective. This happened for King while doing relief work in Vietnam, where poverty and a lack of health services stood in stark contrast to his experiences in America.
“Here, I’m just doing my job every day,” he said. “I don’t always think about the impact of the disease process on quality of life – at least not to this degree. Going to Vietnam is something that changed me. It increased my passion and got me back to where I was when I first entered the field. I’ve never been anywhere in my life where I felt so appreciated.”
King shared his experience to motivate his fellow EEG techs to get involved in this kind of work, in Vietnam and beyond. Work is being done by many organizations across the world. Here are a few of the organizations he talked about.
King, who chairs this task force, encourages techs to share needs with the task force. Because they are involved in more than just epilepsy work, this group is a great place to start getting more information on how and where you can be of service.
King says the hospital has an international outreach program with efforts currently focused on Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. They donate equipment, provide services at multiple hospitals, and focus on educating local caregivers.
Keith Morgan, head of the EEG service company Neurotech, “has devoted a whole division within his company to Neurotech Gives to try to end this treatment gap that we see with epilepsy,” says King. They have been to Cambodia, Tanzania, Haiti, and many other countries. “They have donated equipment and trained nurses to perform EEGs. They even have a few of the nurses that they trained that are ready to take the ABRET boards,” he added.
King’s excitement and passion clearly comes through when he talks about these initiatives and how much collaboration occurs between everyone involved.
“This is breaking down barriers between us. This is not something we should be competitive about,” he says. “This is something where we should lock in, arm in arm, and go and do this type of work.”