TORONTO – The Epilepsy Support Centre is weighing in on hockey player Mike Danton’s recent account of how he rushed to the aid of a convulsing teammate at a Swedish game, warning that he didn’t use standard seizure first aid and it could have turned out badly.
On his blog, Danton said he jammed his fingers into the mouth of teammate Marcus Bengtsson and clawed his tongue.
But a spokesperson for the Epilepsy Support Centre says this is not standard seizure first aid, and such a method can be “incredibly dangerous.”
“Mr. Danton could have broken Mr. Bengtsson’s teeth or jaw. A person having a convulsive seizure might inadvertently bite down on someone’s fingers in their mouth,” Nikki Porter wrote in an email to The Canadian Press.
The incident happened Sept. 18 in the season opener between Danton’s IFK Ore and Soderhamn/Ljusne, both in the third tier of Swedish hockey.
Bengtsson was taken to hospital in Mora and recovered from the incident.
He later told Swedish newspaper Dalarnas Tidning that the only thing he can remember from the incident is feeling his leg starting to shake before passing out—and then seeing Danton and other teammates standing over him when he woke up.
“I can’t describe how thankful I am to Mike and all the others who helped me,” Bengtsson said. “It could have been a lot worse.”
Danton, a former NHL player, who served five years behind bars for a failed murder-for-hire plot, said he took a first aid course in prison and was certified in first aid response.
In an interview, Dr. Richard Wennberg, a professor of neurology at the University of Toronto, said it’s hard to know where the notion came from that something should be placed in the mouth of a person having a seizure.
“I suppose if someone’s lying on their back, historically maybe people who had perhaps vomited at the same time may have had airway problems and so on, and the idea came, I guess, they were swallowing their tongue—but I don’t even think that’s possible,” said Wennberg, co-director of the Epilepsy Program at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital.
“Certainly in modern medical times, the recommendation is to keep your fingers away from someone’s mouth if they’re having a seizure, and to not put anything in their mouth one way or the other that could get lodged in there, stuck. That something could cause the person to gag or break their teeth or what have you.”
Rather, Wennberg said a bystander should just try to move the individual into a safe position, preferably on his or her side, so that if vomiting does occur, or secretions build up, the fluid will roll out the corner of the mouth and not pool at the back of the oral cavity.
The Epilepsy Support Centre offers these steps to follow if someone is having a convulsive seizure:
1. Stay calm.
2. Time the seizure. If the seizure continues for longer than five minutes or the person has two seizures in a row without full recovery between seizures, call 911.
3. Protect from injury. If necessary, ease the person to the floor, and move hard or sharp objects out of the way. Place something soft under the head. Loosen tight clothing around the neck and check for medical I.D.
4. Never attempt to restrain the person as both people could become injured during the seizure, remember to consider your safety as well.
5. Never put anything in the person’s mouth. Contrary to popular belief, a person having a seizure is incapable of swallowing their tongue. Attempting to force a foreign object into someone’s mouth during a seizure can cause serious damage to a person’s gums and teeth.
6. Gently roll the person on their side. This allows saliva and other fluids to drain away, helping keep the airway clear.
7. Afterwards, talk gently to comfort and reassure the person, who may be confused. Stay with them until they become re-oriented. The person may need to rest or sleep.
On the Net:
Canadian Epilepsy Alliance