Flashing lights at mall trigger epileptic seizure

2012-11-05 00:00

AN outing to a restaurant at the Liberty Midlands Mall turned into a disaster for a young university student and his family when he experienced a severe epileptic seizure last week. He had to be stabilised at the scene by medics and taken to hospital after a second epileptic attack.

Pietermaritzburg doctor Dr Trish Moores, who treated the man who asked not to be named, said he has been taking anti-epileptic prophylactic drugs for years and has not had a seizure for ten years. She believes his attack was brought on by the flashing lights at the Mr Funtubbles fun fair at the mall. His is not the only case of a fit thought to have been brought on by the funfair’s flashing lights.

Moores believes the mall or Mr Funtubbles has a duty to warn epilepsy sufferers of the danger and said people who were prone to photosensitive epilepsy could be in danger of an attack.

According to restaurateurs who own restaurants around the fun fair, there have been a few incidents recently involving epileptic seizures.

Moores said photo-sensitive epileptics have seizures triggered when lights flash at certain intervals, with red and white lights being particularly bad.

She said the intensity of the light and the frequency of the flashes can disturb the brain waves, causing a fit.

The owner of John Dory restaurant, Duncan Paul, said it was distressing for the man’s family and the patrons were scared.

A trainee waitress from Newcastle who was doing her training at the Mugg and Bean had an epileptic fit while on duty during a busy Saturday shift.

Owner Jayne Horter said: “The poor thing had no idea what was happening. I don’t think she had experienced a fit before. I have a friend whose daughter is epileptic, so I knew it was a seizure and called an ambulance.”

Karen Robinson, of Epilepsy South Africa, said: “If a person has an attack after so many years of being epilepsy free, it is a cause for concern. There is legislation against lights in public areas.”

Umi Khan, of the Liberty Midlands Mall, said: “Disclaimer notices are placed at the centre’s entrances warning that entry to the centre is at your own risk and the onus is on the responsible public to be cognisant of the various risks associated with entering such an environment.”

A Mr Funtubbles spokesperson said: “Mr Funtubbles are aware of Dr Moores’s concern and have already engaged with her in the past to determine the exact cause and find a solution.”

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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