What's with the purple today?

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By Scott Sistek

SEATTLE -- My niece Gabby is celebrating her 6th birthday today at Children's Hospital and I'm wearing purple. Why?

Gabby suffers from seizures and faces several other medical challenges stemming from those seizures, but it just so happens that her March 26 birthday falls on "Purple Day" -- the Global day of Epilepsy Awareness.

It's an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide, and people are invited to wear purple in support of epilepsy awareness.

Epilepsy affects nearly 3 million Americans and 50 million people worldwide. It is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions, according to The Epilepsy Foundation.

According to the site, epilepsy’s prevalence is greater than cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease combined, but it's among the least understood of the major chronic medical conditions. And in over 30 percent of patients, including my niece, seizures cannot be controlled with treatment.

But historically, epilepsy research has been under-funded. Federal dollars spent on research pale in comparison to those spent on other diseases, many of which affect fewer people than epilepsy.

Gabby's current hospital stay is related to a particularly nasty cold virus that is spreading around, but her seizures make treatments very difficult as steps to treat symptoms from her sickness exacerbate her seizures. And those challenges have turned what was supposed to be a few days' stay into weeks and what might be months.

Aside from wearing purple, you can also show your support at the Northwest Run/Walk for Epilepsy on June 16 in Seattle's Green Lake. You can find more information at nwrunwalk.org

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