Living with epilepsy inspired two Winchester natives to lead the way in creating a seizure smart campus at Morehead State University.
Luke and Colby Birkes are working to do just that.
Luke was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was in second grade and since has spent his life fighting stereotypes.
“I’ve had situations in my life that I have been discriminated against for epilepsy,” said Luke, a strategic communications major.
The Birkes brothers were interested in educating others on seizure response after Luke watched a fellow student suffering from seizure related struggles be forced to leave college.
Not long after, the Birkes learned of the Lyndsey Crunk Act, which required public schools to be seizure aware.
“It got us thinking that if public schools can be trained what’s to stop us from getting colleges and universities trained,” said Luke.
In partnership with Epilepsy Foundation Kentuckiana, the Birkes brothers have started making progress by getting MSU’s police department trained last fall in seizure response.
The training consisted of a lectured course followed by a questionnaire.
Lieutenant Jarred Hunt with the MSU police department said, “Every officer here had prior training,” but the training the officers received, “was more extensive than we’ve had before and very informative,” said Hunt.
Colby, the president of MSU’s Student Government Association, said he hopes educating people about epilepsy will help remove some of the stigma and misconceptions that people have surrounding the neurological ailment.
“Some people still think epilepsy is contagious and that you can catch it, a lot of people think that it’s a psychological disorder and so you can receive counseling to get rid of your epilepsy,” said Colby, a political science major.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana, 3.4 million Americans have epilepsy and 1 in 10 will have a single seizure in their lifetime.
Luke said he wants to see other schools follow suit so those living with epilepsy can have an equal opportunity to thrive in college environments.
“Through these trainings if we can help people understand, we can also show them that they should not think badly of people with epilepsy,” said Luke, who is also a member of SGA.
The Birkes brothers are planning to start training more professors and open up classes to students in fall 2020.