The first time Mary had an epileptic seizure and fell down, it was in front of her home. She woke up in her bedroom, her mouth sore, but with no recollection of what had happened. She thought someone must have pushed her. She was scared.
Over days and weeks the seizures recurred. Mary fell against the hard edges of the bathroom, and onto the rocky ground of her elementary school yard. The marks on her body added to the stigma of the seizures themselves. In Liberia—in fact, in many countries worldwide—the myths surrounding epilepsy are strong, including that epilepsy can be transferred to another person through the slightest contact.
“In Liberia, we grow up with the notion that when you touch a person [with epilepsy], definitely it will catch you,” explains Mary’s elder sister and caregiver, Annie*. “I've seen other people with epilepsy. We would be running from there, going ‘If you touch that, it will happen to you!’ We were so afraid.”