Barrow Changes Mother’s Life with Epilepsy Surgery
I remember the day I had my very first seizure. I was on a plane and we had just landed at the airport. My four-year-old daughter was holding my hand and my 14-month-old son was balanced on my hip as we waited to exit. Suddenly, I was overcome with an intense wave of dizziness. I handed my son over to my husband, scared that I would drop him as the world spun around me. Then everything went black.
When I came to, I was lying on the ground in the airport terminal surrounded by paramedics. I couldn’t see my husband or children anywhere and started to panic. That’s when one of the paramedics told me that I had a seizure. Specifically, I had a tonic-clonic seizure, complete with loss of consciousness and violent convulsions. I didn’t recall any of it, but the seizure must have been bad because I could clearly see the fear in my husband’s eyes when he reached me.
The days following my seizure were a whirlwind of tests and scans, all of which came back inconclusive. This led my doctors to believe that it was a one-time anomaly. That was not the case, however, and I had two more seizures within the next couple of years. Finally, I found a neurologist who put me on a medication that stopped the clonic-tonic seizures.
Then, I started humming throughout the day. I was completely unaware I was doing this until my husband mentioned it. I went to see my neurologist and it turned out that these “humming episodes” were actually focal seizures. My neurologist started me on a new medication to get the focal seizures under control before they caused any damage.
After 19 different medications and a vagal nerve stimulation surgery, my seizures still wouldn’t stop. Even worse were the terrible side effects I experienced from the all the medications. From brain fog, to extreme exhaustion, to deep depression, I went through it all to no avail.
That’s when my neurologist told me that there was nothing more he could do, but he would refer me to Barrow Neurological Institute. At that point, I lost hope of ever getting my epilepsy under control and almost gave up trying. Then, I remembered my husband who had been my rock this whole time and my children who needed their mother as they grew up. I resolved to keep fighting and took the referral to Barrow. It was the best decision I ever made.
I met with epilepsy neurologist Susan Herman, MD, and was shown kindness and compassion like I had never experienced before from a medical professional. She worked hard to expedite all of the advanced diagnostic testing that was needed to figure out the best course of treatment.
It was decided that I would need to undergo deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, which is like getting a pacemaker for the brain. I was apprehensive about doing the surgery, but when I met my neurosurgeon, Kris Smith, MD, I knew I was in the best hands possible. From day one, Dr. Smith walked through everything step-by-step with me, answered all my questions, and never pressured me to make a decision on the spot. I felt like he really cared about me as a person and had my best interest in mind.
In August 2022, I had the DBS surgery with Dr. Smith and it completely changed my life. I very rarely have seizures now and can spend time with my husband, play with my children, travel, and do all the things I love without fear or medication side effects. I have my life back and it’s all thanks to Dr. Herman, Dr. Smith, and everyone at Barrow who went above and beyond to care for me.
More than 3.4 million Americans are living with epilepsy, with about 30% to 40% experiencing drug-resistant epilepsy. Barrow recently welcomed epilepsy surgeon-scientist Andrew Yang, MD, whose research focuses on designing next-generation brain stimulation therapies for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy, so they can go back to living a fulfilling life.