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Old 13-07-2014, 22:20   #1
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Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

I do have a question that I can not answer.

Should someone who suffers from seizures be sailing?

Of course the risk of going overboard is heightened. A tether would/could do more harm than good.

Does a new lifeline system need to be developed to instantly grab the person and sail the boat too?

I would like to know if anyone has delt with the issue of a crew or passenger who is prone to seizures and how they delt with the situation.

Or just what your opinion is.
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Old 13-07-2014, 22:25   #2
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

The patient should discuss with the doctor treating the disorder. Any advice from the internet is pretty much useless in these cases.
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Old 13-07-2014, 22:36   #3
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

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Originally Posted by transmitterdan View Post
The patient should discuss with the doctor treating the disorder. Any advice from the internet is pretty much useless in these cases.
+1

But I can say there are all kinds of people with disabilities people sailing.

Don't give up any hope but consult a doc.
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Old 14-07-2014, 00:51   #4
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

Better than just contacting any doc, see if you can't find one who is also a sailor. It will take some research, but such a one will at least understand the context better than someone who is not.

You asked for opinions. Okay, it is risky, could lead to death, could lead to feeling damn guilty if it's someone you care about you're asking about. The one with the seizures should be the one to discuss it with the doc (changes of medications, maybe?) If they are not allowed to drive because of the seizures should they be put in the position of possibly injuring others due to a seizure? Greater dangers of lawsuits?

One of the early American judges, Oliver Wendell Holmes, said in effect, "the other guy's rights stop short of my nose." That's one framework for considering this issue.

Such are my thoughts.

Good luck with this. It's a serious issue.

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Old 14-07-2014, 05:16   #5
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

What type of sailing, what type of boat, alone or crewed, severity and frequency of seizures, onset time of seizures. As with most things in boating it really depends. Finding a physician with similar boating experience to what is being contemplated would be my best suggestion.
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Old 14-07-2014, 05:51   #6
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

Does the same person drive a car? If so they definitely can sail a boat!
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Old 14-07-2014, 06:13   #7
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

CF member Wolfenzee was a liveaboard, and he suffered from seizures. He lived that life successfully for some years, if I recall correctly -- but eventually his body was found floating in the harbor near his boat.
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Old 14-07-2014, 06:33   #8
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

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Originally Posted by Ujin View Post

Should someone who suffers from seizures be sailing?
That is a very broad question as the frequency and severity of the seizures and the type sailing and number of others involved is important.

Most states require certain minimum periods seizure free in order to drive a car. That logic appears to make sense in talking about boating. I would say as to sailing alone, definitely not if any recent seizures. If sailing with others, obviously wear PFD at all times but also make sure the others are aware of your condition and know what to do in the event of a seizure.

Yes, discuss with your doctor, but also make this decision with your mind. Yes, one wants to, wishes they could, but sometimes there are limitations not to be ignored. You stated a person with seizures and that gave me the impression that you are still having them and haven't been seizure free for a long period.

Boating does add one other factor as well to the risks of driving. That is that sometimes seizures lead to injury and the access to medical care can take longer when on the water.

Just based on the information provided, I'd probably limit my sailing to doing so with other friends and doing it inland or in bays close to shore.
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Old 14-07-2014, 06:54   #9
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

As usual on the Internet people answer with no experience with the subject just their excellent "expert" opinions.

Linda and I have lived aboard and cruised 6000 miles (coastal cruising) for the past 8 1/2 years. She has seizures (3 to 6 times per year). They are not grand mal seizures, just the staring, can't speak or respond type.

I do the deck work so she isn't up on the bow wrestling sails, etc. my only real concern is when she insists on helping to clean the bottom! A seizure at that point would be a very bad thing.

If the person has only occassional seizures controlled by meds, don't stop living your life. If they are with someone who understands seizures, go cruising and sailing. Now, I might not take Linda on an offshore passage across the Atlantic but coastal cruising is fine.
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Old 14-07-2014, 07:07   #10
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

Long-time lurker, 3rd-time commenter...

I daysail 3-4x a week on Lake Ontario, and charter a week or two in the Caribbean each winter. I also have Epilepsy, causing grand mal seizures. My seizures are quite rare, one every year to year&ahalf. While both my mileage and frequency of seizures are lower than most, here's my view (Fwiw).

I tell my crew that I have epilepsy and don't take medication for it. I tell them that they're rare and that I usually get a minute's notice of an oncoming seizure. I will try to get to the salon or a berth before it hits, but if not I ask that they push me down the companionway. I'd rather break a bone than drown or knock someone else overboard.
When my wife finally falls in love with sailing, i hope to liveaboard. Seizures and all.

This is all said with the caveat that this is only my choice, my experience, and that a doctor (especially one that sails) will give you a more suitable view.
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Old 14-07-2014, 07:16   #11
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

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She has seizures (3 to 6 times per year). They are not grand mal seizures, just the staring, can't speak or respond type.
You do point out that the type seizure is important to know. I was thinking greater seizures than your wife experiences when I responded. For the type she has, your precautions seem very appropriate and glad you both are able to enjoy sailing. Even with more severe seizures I'm sure it can be enjoyed as a passenger or in some limited form with others.

And I do have quite a bit of experience with seizures and trying to make the workplace safe. Also a very close friend who went seizure free for several years until the latter stages of her pregnancy. I have been around those who have managed their seizures for years through medication. Unfortunately, I've also been around those who had at least one grand mal a year. One I know who had at least six seizures at work we were able to accommodate through training of all those in her department. It was at that point we realized that everyone should really be trained to know what to do. My wife, as a teacher, dealt with several young children with seizures. She took it as a great time to build understanding in the other kids. Quite honestly they handled it better than adults.

I hope all with seizures or any other conditions find the way to live the most full lives possible without undue danger to themselves or others.
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Old 14-07-2014, 08:01   #12
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

As others have said, this is not a question with a simple answer. I am a physician with an adult son with a type of severe epilepsy that is not controllable. As noted, the spectrum of the condition, whether seizure types, advance warning, seizure frequency or medication side effects, means that you'll need to work through this for your particular circumstances. The answer can also be different if you are talking about an occasional guest, active crew and watchstander or a potential skipper.

We take my son on day trips. He stays in the cockpit or below. I would have no issue taking someone with controlled epilepsy (able to drive a car and very infrequent seizures) cruising and giving them normal crew responsibilities. I would take someone who had seizures more frequently, but would ask them to not be on deck alone and would want to have a plan if they were unable to perform their responsibilities. If they have known triggers, I'd want to know about them and make sure to avoid them.

There are a number of health conditions that can present suddenly and ruin your day. Epilepsy is just one. Finding the right approach to give the person safe time on the water is laudable. Good luck.
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Old 14-07-2014, 10:47   #13
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

To answer some questions; warning time is about 3-5 seconds, frequency is about 6 per year, duration of seizure can be seconds to several hours. I do drive. As far as other people around; never has been so probably will not be. No medications, sailing type has been coastal but I would like to put an ocean passage to that.

Thank you all for the wonderful responses.

I do recognize the risk, especially solo.

And that's why I wanted to ask of others' experience.
I do a lot in daily life for preventative measures.

the seizures have gotten worse over time so an increased level of precautions is certainly needed.
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Old 14-07-2014, 11:16   #14
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

Maybe it is a good idea to do the sailing with another person there.

I mean if anything happens, the other sailor will be there to take appropriate action. Just make sure they know what the condition is about and what to do in case.

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Old 14-07-2014, 11:43   #15
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Re: Seizures and Sailboats. Do They Mix?

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Maybe it is a good idea to do the sailing with another person there.

I mean if anything happens, the other sailor will be there to take appropriate action. Just make sure they know what the condition is about and what to do in case.

b.
I agree with this. Remember that you are not just putting yourself at risk if you have a seizure while solo. Your boat will be underway and can put others in danger while you are incapacitated.
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