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Andrea Starr has had Juvenile Myoclonic Syndrome for some time, so she recognized the epileptic seizure she was experiencing on the beach for what it was. After repeatedly waking up, disoriented on the beach, Starr realized that she was likely experiencing tonic-clonic seizures on October 11th, 2014. Having been treated for her seizures for years and already experienced a near-fatal status epiepticus two year ago, Starr was scared and called 911 to ask for help.
Calling 911 for medical help while experiencing seizures seems like a good idea, but help didn’t arrive; the police did. Despite the fact that Starr had called for help with seizures, they decided that she was publicly intoxicated and that her thrashing meant she was resisting arrest. She was handled very roughly, resulting in a number of injuries that couldn’t have been caused by seizing on the sand. It is common for people to be confused and and physically disoriented during and following a seizure.
Starr received a check-up at a local medical facility. Then, instead of admitting Starr to the hospital for treatment, observation and evaluation, the police took her to jail, where she was denied medical attention and her medication. When asked about why they permitted the arrest of someone recovering from seizures, a doctor wrote that because she was swearing at the officers and didn’t have a seizure while being observed, they felt she could be released. Apparently, the doctor felt she should have been more polite to the officers who had just physically restrained her following a seizure.
Starr reportedly experienced another seizure while in police custody. She reported that she was convulsing on the floor, and an officer came in and kicked her in the head, blaming it on her head being too close to the door. This act of brutality and the ongoing refusal of officers to obtain medical attention for Starr made some of the other women who were incarcerated cry, because it was clear she was in distress and in need of medical attention. It took more than 13 hours for her to finally receive appropriate medical treatment.
Despite providing mountains of documentation that she has a generalized seizure condition that impacts her entire brain, Starr is still facing criminal charges. While she tested negative for illegal drugs and had only had a few drinks, Starr is being charged with public intoxication, resisting arrest and battery of a police officer (a charge which means her flailing limbs likely didn’t even hit or injure any of the officers). Starr has stated in the comments on an article published the Free Thought Project on her story that she has previously used cannabis oil successfully to help reduce her seizures, but expenses have precluded her from renewing her medical cannabis certification, leaving her dependent on pharmaceuticals.
Those who wish to can make a donation to Starr’s legal defense fund at her GoFundMe page here. She is also asking that folks who are moved by her situation consider donating to an Epilespy foundation for Epilepsy Awareness Month. Perhaps, for Epilepsy awareness month, the police in Pismo Beach and elsewhere should receive better training on how to recognize an epileptic seizure and how to properly handle someone after they have a seizure, as paramedics typically do so that officers won’t confuse spasms with a violent threat.
For previous Ladybud Magazine articles that discuss epilepsy, click here.
Photo Credit: Mack Sennett Studios under public domain via Wikimedia Commons