Video Game Induced Seizures – A Mother’s Story

Parenting a special needs child is tough but rewarding. Being the mother of a son who has been diagnosed with epilepsy has had challenges both emotional and physical, but being able to stay home with him has been a special gift from God. Seizures cause the body to stiffen and shake, often resulting in physical exhaustion after the seizure is over. My 14 year old son began having seizures when he was 7 years old while playing a video game on Nintendo – the first version.

I remember the first seizure he had. I was sitting on the bed and he was in the bedroom playing the Legend of Zelda with his little brother. Joshua was 7 at the time. I heard him come into the room and say to me “Momma I see spots”. Well, I thought perhaps it was just from playing the game and told him to sit up on my bed. I noticed his neck turn to the right and so did his eye. His eyes became fixated deep within the sockets and his body began to stiffen. He still heard my voice so I told him to try to go to the bathroom.

I held his arm long enough for him to walk to the bathroom. Then he began to shake and his knees buckled. OMG! I could not believe what was happening. I screamed to the top of my lungs for his father to come quick. His father called 911 as I began to pray “God please don’t take my baby, please don’t take my son”! I had never experienced anyone having a seizure especially not my child.

The ambulance came and put an IV in his arm. By the time we were 1/2 way down the road, he came out of the seizure and began talking as if nothing had happened. It was the most bizarre thing. At the hospital they ran a series of tests to determine if he had some sort of tumor or growth that may have caused seizure activity, but found nothing.

It was determined that the flickering light from the game and the television caused the seizure.

In the early 1990’s Nintendo USA launched a warning that video games could cause seizures and it was noted that this may occur in children who had epileptic tendencies. But the warnings on the games came after the creation of the game he was playing. Was Nintendo aware of this? That is a good question. In China a Pokemon series caused 100’s of people to flood the emergency rooms with seizures simultaneously. The point is that the games and the shows had a flickering light that happened at certain intervals for the purpose of stimulating the brain of the player/watcher.

This flicker causes an opening of the pupil at irregular intervals, thus inducing an improper misfiring of the neurons in the brain. Once this happens, seizure occurs. Diagnosing epilepsy after a photonic induced seizure is nearly impossible but here is the thing – the first seizure can trigger epilepsy and more seizures will occur.

After that first seizure, my son has at least 2 seizures per year. I never knew when they would happen but limited his exposure to flickering light, dis-allowed any video game play, made him wear protective sunglasses and turn away when there were police lights, etc. around.

I constantly worry about him having a seizure, but am proud that my life allows me to be home with him.

Today I stay home and work designing websites and doing social media marketing because I want to be with him while he is sick. If you have children who love to play older video games, please make sure you limit their time and make them sit away from the screen. Older televisions have this same screen flicker.

With much love.