When third-grader Brennan Yamaguchi witnessed someone having a seizure, he worried about his best friend, who also has epilepsy. “People need to know how to help,” he told his mom, and began a campaign that went all the way to the Hawaii State Capitol!
Brennan’s Quest to Help His Friend
Melissa Yamaguchi was out shopping with her son, Brennan, when a teenage boy suddenly collapsed and lay twitching and jerking. One of his friends quickly dialed 911. “He has epilepsy and is having a seizure,” he told the dispatcher.
“Is that what happens to Kira?” a shaken then-8-year-old Brennan asked his mom.
Kira Yamamoto, who also has epilepsy, was Brennan’s best friend since kindergarten. She’d never had a seizure at school, but as Brennan watched the EMTs, the Honolulu third-grader told his mom, “I have to learn what to do just in case.”
With his mom’s help, Brennan researched seizure disorders. They learned about the three S’s: Turn the person onto their SIDE if they are not awake. Keep the person SAFE and STAY with them until they are awake and alert. They also learned never to restrain someone having a seizure or force a spoon or other object into their mouth in an attempt to protect their tongue. Doing so could cause them injury.
“I didn’t know that,” Melissa said, and Brennan thought, If Mom doesn’t know, I bet lots of other people don’t know either — and I need to tell them!
Brennan began sharing what he’d learned at school and with his baseball team. He hung a “What to do if someone is having a seizure” poster from the Epilepsy Foundation in every classroom and on the playground. “In case Kira ever needs our help,” he explained.
“I’m always so worried about her venturing out alone,” Kira’s mom, Kathy, confided to Melissa. “Thanks to Brennan, I feel much more comfortable.”
Brennan wanted all families to share that sense of confidence about their loved ones with seizure disorders.
So when, in 2020, Hawaii State Senator Glenn Wakai organized a baseball tournament in Japan and Brennan’s team was selected to participate, he took the opportunity to suggest to the Senator that there be a law that all public spaces display a seizure first-aid poster.
The senator agreed this was a worthy cause, and last July, after an impassioned plea by Brennan at the committee hearing, a bill was passed.
Brennan, now 13, is thrilled.
“I wanted to help my friend,” he says. “It makes me feel good and happy that I am helping others too.”
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This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.