Historical Treatment of Epilepsy

Jorydn, thanks for hosting me today!

I’d love to give away a paperback copy and an electronic copy of The Homesteader’s Sweetheart to two of the people who comment. Jordyn will draw names Friday the 4th at midnight and announce the winner Satuday, April 5th!

Also, in honor of my birthday this month, I’m doing a special promotion for the book release. Check it out at www.megamaybirthdaybash.com. Jordyn here: I am happy to say I am part of the Mega May Birthday Bash as well so if you’re interested in a couple of free chapters of Proof and a chance to win the novel– I’ll be there!!

What would you be willing to do, how far would you be willing to go to get your child the medical treatment they need?

That was the question I started with when writing The Homesteader’s Sweetheart.

I knew that the hero’s daughter would have some kind of health issue. Her health would be a pivotal part of the book for the hero, who needs money to get her the treatment she needs. Based on the research I did, I gave her a childhood form of epilepsy.

In 1890, there was really only one accepted drug to treat epilepsy: bromide. The side-effects of this drug are described as “considerable” and are listed as sedation, depression, skin rashes, and gastro-intestinal distress. So basically your choices were to suffer the seizures or live in a state of half-awareness. Thankfully, it seems that seizure-controlling drugs have come a long way since then and are able to help a lot of people.

Another suggestion for managing epilepsy in 1890 was to lead a more sedentary life—a lot of resting and relaxing. But for Jonas’s five-year-old, a precocious little girl who wants to follow her older brothers around, that’s not an option either.

And so the hero of my story has a desperate need to raise funds for a (fictional) experimental treatment for his daughter. And he will do anything to get that money, to get his daughter the treatment.

Having kids of my own, I have a lot of empathy toward my hero. I hate it when my kids even get a little sniffle, so I know that dealing with something like this can definitely make you feel powerless and desperate to do anything to help.

Here’s a short excerpt from The Homesteader’s Sweetheart. This is a scene where Breanna (the daughter) is suffering a seizure and the heroine, Penny, realizes that the hero has a lot more on his plate than she thought.

An hour passed without a word spoken between them. Breanna woke up. She seemed quieter, more reserved, and this seemed to worry Jonas, if the crease on his brow was any indication. He insisted they stop awhile under a clump of trees. Sam roused, too, though he remained taciturn and kept to himself. They ate a small picnic in the limited shade from the wagon before continuing on their way.

Breanna did not chatter this time. Penny idly wondered if the trip was a mistake—she already missed conversing with her friends from town.

The summer sun made her drowsy, and she was half-dreaming about her father forcing her down the aisle to meet Mr. Abbott when a startled exclamation from Jonas roused her.

“Breanna? Do you feel ill?”

Breanna did not answer, but Penny turned in time to see the little girl collapse into the wagon.

Suddenly, the placid, quiet man next to Penny leapt into action.

“Whoa!” He pulled back on the reins and set the brake as the wagon rolled to a stop. Instantly, he scooped Breanna into his arms from her prone position in the wagon and maneuvered himself off the bench seat.

Breanna appeared to be shaking. She hadn’t seemed sick at all this morning…

Alarmed by the girl’s pallor, Penny blurted, “What can I do to help?”

Sam jumped from the back of the wagon, shaking his head as if he’d been drowsing, too. “What’s wrong?”

“Jonas?” Penny questioned again, forgoing propriety.

Jonas ignored Sam as he settled the girl in the small patch of shade cast by the wagon itself. He spoke to Penny instead. “Can you get the canteen? It’s under the bench there. And find a piece of fabric to wet her face?”

She reached for the canteen tucked under the bench seat and hiked up her skirts before stepping down on top of the wagon wheel to dismount. As she pulled her other leg from the wagon, her boot slipped on the smooth wheel and she tumbled to the ground, knocking her chin on the way down. She ended up sprawled inelegantly on her backside, the canteen rolling away.

And face-to-face—albeit across the wagon—with Jonas. He was gentleman enough not to laugh at her. He only grunted, “You all right?”

She chose not to reply, instead reaching underneath her gown and ripping off a piece of her petticoat. She stood and rushed around the wagon to join Jonas kneeling near Breanna in the soft spring grasses.

The girl lay on her side, her entire body convulsing.

“Will she be all right?” Penny asked, voice breathless from her fall and the suddenness of Breanna’s episode.

“Yes, in a bit.” Jonas did not look away from Breanna’s face. He’d loosened the neck of her dress and Penny caught sight of the girl’s undergarment, so worn it appeared gray.


Thanks Lacy for this great post! Looking forward to participating in your Birthday Bash!


Lacy also did a great series here at Redwood’s Medical Edge last July on historical medicine. You can find them here: Part I, Part II, Part III, PartIV.
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As a child, Lacy Williams wanted to become a veterinarian “when she grew up”. However, the sight of blood often made her squeamish so she gave up that dream before her teen years. As a college student, Lacy was a physical therapy major for approximately two weeks—until she found out she’d have to take a cadaver lab to complete that degree plan. As a writer, Lacy has finally found a way she can handle blood and gore—fictionally.
A wife and mom from Oklahoma, Lacy is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and is active in her local chapter, including a mentorship program she helped to start. She writes to give her readers happily-ever-afters guaranteed and mostly reads the end of the book first. You can find out more about Lacy at her website www.lacywilliams.net. She is also active on Facebook (www.facebook.com/lacywilliamsbooks) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/lacy_williams).

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