“I had a full-blown grand mal seizure on Thursday before the show” Shields said. “Everything starts to go black. Then my hands drop to my side and I go headfirst into the wall.”
“I was drinking too much water because I felt dehydrated because I was singing more than I’ve ever sung in my life and doing a show and a podcast. So they were just like, “Eat potato chips every day.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, a grand mal seizure — also known as a tonic-clonic seizure — causes a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.
During a grand mal seizure, the muscles stiffen and the body starts to convulse or shake violently. Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures, but they can also be the result of sustained high fevers or as in Shields’ case, dangerously low blood sodium levels, a condition called hyponatremia. That same condition led to the death of an Indiana woman this summer.
Seizure warning signs
Grand Mal (tonic-clonic) seizures have two stages: the tonic phase, where loss of consciousness occurs, and the clonic phase, where the muscles go into rhythmic contractions.
Seizures can occur seemingly out of nowhere, but there are a few common signs.
- A scream
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Bad headache
How you can help
Witnessing someone having a tonic-clonic seizure can be scary. But if you’re near, there are a few things you can do to help. John Hopkins recommends:
- Clearing the floor of any surrounding furniture
- Timing the seizure (most resolve in a few minutes)
- Calling 911 if the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
One thing you shouldn’t do is try to put something in the person’s mouth. This outdated advice is often portrayed in films and TV shows, but actually creates a significant risk of choking.