Okanagan boy unable to return to school after province halts seizure care plan

·2 min read
Suzanne Temple with her nine-year-old son Sebastian. Temple says her son's school in Summerland, B.C., told her last week that Interior Health had put a  seizure care plan on hold without providing any explanation. (Submitted by Suzanne Temple - image credit)
Suzanne Temple with her nine-year-old son Sebastian. Temple says her son's school in Summerland, B.C., told her last week that Interior Health had put a seizure care plan on hold without providing any explanation. (Submitted by Suzanne Temple - image credit)

An Okanagan parent says her nine-year-old son is unable to return to school after the B.C. government stopped allowing educational assistants (EAs) to administer seizure medication.

Suzanne Temple's son Sebastian, who experiences seizures because of a rare brain condition called lissencephaly, was due to start Grade 4 at Giant's Head Elementary School in Summerland, B.C., about 50 kilometres south of Kelowna.

Temple says Sebastian needs trained EAs to administer medication within seven minutes of a seizure starting, and Interior Health previously permitted schools to assign staff who could follow procedures for when a student had a seizure.

At the beginning of every school year, the health authority's school nursing support services would train EAs to administer seizure medication, which could be in the form of swallowed pills, anal gel or nasal spray.

However, last Wednesday, she said, the school told her Interior Health had decided to put the plan "on hold," implementing instead a new plan — but offered no details.

Temple says she's keeping Sebastian at home while she awaits clarification from School District 67 about the seizure action plan, which means she can't go back to work as a shop assistant.

"It also means for Sebastian, he doesn't get that wonderful, stimulating environment of school where he has just so many friends," she told host Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South.

Temple says she knows several other parents across the province who are in the same position. She says they share her worries that their children might suffer or even die if they're not treated in time.

Without EAs to administer medication, Temple says it would fall to her or a trained family member to rush to school — about two kilometres from her home — if Sebastian had a seizure.

Tracy Humphreys, executive director of BCEdAccess Society — a volunteer organization that supports families of students with disabilities — says six families of children with epilepsy have contacted her for help, and she has contacted the province about the changes in seizure response at schools.

Humphreys says there is "a lot of unknown" over why regional health authorities are no longer training school staff in the procedures, and recommends that parents keep writing to the province asking for an explanation.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said it couldn't speak to individual cases, but is developing a plan with the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) this academic year to train school staff in seizure care.

The ministry said it would inform families about the plan "in the coming days." Temple said on Tuesday she had yet to receive any information.

The ministry did not say why the PHSA no longer assigns nurses to train education assistants for seizure management.

CBC has contacted School District 67 and the Ministry of Education for comment.