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​​​​​​​Image of Dr. Peter Pisters
Dr. Peter Pisters wears a purple tie in support of Epilepsy Awareness. On March 26, join him by wearing purple as UHN supports Purple Day. (Photo: UHN)​

Epilepsy is a condition that is still misunderstood.

To increase public knowledge about this neurological disorder that affects approximately one in every 100 Canadians, the month of March is dedicated as Epilepsy Awareness Month.

In Canada, March 26 is recognized across the country as Purple Day -- a day dedicated to raising awareness about the condition. Canadians can show support by wearing purple, the international colour for epilepsy.

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How did Purple Day start?

This year marks the first national Purple Day in Canada.

Motivated by her own struggle with epilepsy, Purple Day was started by Cassidy Megan, a young girl from Nova Scotia, to increase understanding about the condition. Megan hoped to dispel myths and help those who suffer from seizures feel less isolated.

Last year, the Canadian government recognized Megan's efforts. Parliament voted to pass Bill C-278 – the Purple Act – to officially recognize March 26 as Purple Day. 

"Purple Day is really important to increase awareness around epilepsy," said Alina Shcharinsky, Nurse Practitioner, Functional Neurosurgery and Surgical Epilepsy at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre, who has helped organize epilepsy-related events at Toronto Western Hospital.

"We need to continue our efforts to increase awareness and educate the public about this disorder because people affected by epilepsy have one of the lowest quality of life among those suffering from chronic diseases, mainly due to stigma from lack of public knowledge," she added.


​​​For UHN Neurosurgeon Dr. Taufik Valiante, Purple Day is about reducing stigma people with epilepsy face on a daily basis. Find out how you can do your part on Purple Day! (Video: UHNToronto YouTube)

The need for awareness

Epilepsy, and the seizures that define this disorder, come in many forms.

Seizures can range from absence seizures –which last roughly 20 seconds and impair consciousness– to tonic-clonic. Also referred to as grand mal seizures, this type of seizure affects the entire brain, causing a person to lose consciousness and have convulsions.

Although medications exist to help patients manage their seizures, only 70 per cent of people with epilepsy respond to medication. Of the remaining 30 per cent, half are candidates for brain surgery, but the remaining 15 per cent have no treatment options to stop their seizures.

Show – and Tweet us— your purple

Staff, patients and visitors are invited to "show us your purple" in support of our patients with epilepsy and their families. On March 26, take pictures of yourself and coworkers in your Purple Day gear. Tweet them to @UHN with the hashtag #PurpleDay. We will upload your purple pics to the UHN Facebook page here for you to share with your friends.

Staff are also invited to drop by the Purple Day booth at TWH between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to learn about epilepsy, enjoy baked goods and enter a raffle draw – we hope to see you there!​

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