Overcoming epilepsy, and spreading the word about it

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 December, 2006, 12:00am

Mandy Chan Man-kuen, 40, is not a woman with a lot of spare time. She visits clinics and hospitals to promote health programmes for various types of chronic illnesses, including stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

She also promotes awareness of epilepsy - something about which she has personal experience as she has had seizures since she was a secondary school student.

Last month, Ms Chan was chosen as this year's Outstanding Person with Epilepsy and represented Hong Kong at the Asian and Oceanic Epilepsy Programme in Kuala Lumpur.

For Ms Chan, it was recognition of her years of work for the Hong Kong Epilepsy Association, both as an executive member and as the editor of its newsletter.

'I was very happy to win against two other candidates,' said Ms Chan, flicking through photo albums of her four-day visit to the Malaysian capital. 'I thought the members of the panel understood well that I have made a lot of effort for the association. The comment from the judges was that I had improved the association and myself as a person.'

'Doctors love the newsletter,' said Anchor Hung Tak-fung, a manager and social worker with the Community Rehabilitation Network of the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation, one of the 27 beneficiaries of Operation Santa Claus this year.

'It's the only newsletter about epilepsy in Chinese in Hong Kong. It is comprehensive and covers interviews with doctors, medical articles, some sharing from patients and some of the programmes of the Epilepsy Association.'

It's been a rough road for Ms Chan on the job front. She takes medication, some of which has side effects, and employers have been less than understanding.

'People in Hong Kong have no understanding,' she said. 'I once worked for an NGO. When I disclosed that I had epilepsy, the boss found an indirect way of firing me. It's always subtle and indirect.'

But Ms Chan remains optimistic. 'A person can be very positive despite living with epilepsy,' she said. 'There is no need to hide or conceal the illness. If you always feel helpless, you'll always be down like a frog in a well. It is important that you try new things.'

The Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation will release an educational DVD, Demystifying Epilepsy, next year. It will comprise an educational kit with a booklet and DVD for patients, professionals and community education.

The DVD has been put together by the Society for Rehabilitation, the Hong Epilepsy Society and the Hong Kong Society for Child Neurology and Developmental Paediatrics.

For more information, e-mail Ms Hung at anchor.hung@rehabsociety.org.hk