March 24th, 2017
Just four months after being in a coma, Mike Short was crawling through tunnels, jumping over fiery logs, and scaling walls as part of a 5K race known as a "rugged maniac." The Georgia native owes his ability to participate in the race to the neurocritical care team at Mayo Clinic that helped him recover from a brain injury he suffered shortly after his 50th birthday.
Diagnosed with a seizure disorder in childhood, Mike had had only a handful of grand mal seizures in his life. But on April 9, 2016, while visiting a friend in Blackshear, Georgia, he had another. It was his first in 10 years. The seizure caused Mike to fall and hit his head. He was transported to a local hospital where he had another seizure.
“I aspirated everything into my lungs and passed out due to lack of oxygen,” Mike recalls being told.
January 19th, 2017
Five weeks before she was born, Marissa B. had a stroke in utero. When her mother went into labor, Marissa had another stroke. Diagnosed with epilepsy at birth, Marissa spent her first month of life in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“When she was six months old, they did a brain MRI,” Marissa’s mom, Lisa, says. “They said she would never walk or go to a regular school.”
The strokes took a significant toll on the left side of Marissa’s body. She doesn’t have fine motor skills in her left hand. She has a blind spot in her lower left eye and hearing loss in her left ear. Sensation on her entire left side was also affected.
“I’ve been on seizure meds since birth,” says Marissa, who is now 24 years old.
December 22nd, 2016
For much of her adolescent and adult life, Erica Laney, 31, had frequent petit mal seizures. Less often, she had grand mal seizures that led to loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. The cause of the seizures was abnormal electrical activity throughout her brain.
“The seizures started when I was 11 years old. I would experience three to four a month,” Erica says. “I was unable to talk during these auras and couldn’t remember anything afterwards. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster, and I was heading for the big drop. Then darkness came from behind me, enveloping me in a haze that would lead to a seizure.”
The Mims, Florida, native was diagnosed with seizure disorder and had a series of tests, including MRIs, CT scans, and electroencephalograms, or EEGs. Erica also went through intracarotid sodium amobarbital, or Wada, testing, which looks at language and memory on one side of the brain at a time. While under the care of an Orlando neurologist, Erica took several medications to control her seizures. But she was never fully seizure-free.
November 8th, 2016
The first time Tehya Mrotek had a seizure during class, she had just begun high school. Most of the faculty and staff at Stewartville High School didn’t know how to respond to Tehya’s condition.
The school nurse recognized what had happened, however. The nurse explained it to Tehya when she regained consciousness from her tonic-clonic episode. But Tehya’s teachers and support staff weren’t very familiar with epilepsy and were not equipped to administer seizure first-aid, says Tehya’s mother, Tamra Mrotek. That was six years ago.
Within three years, not only had all of Tehya’s teachers and administrators become proficient in epilepsy education, but the town of Stewartville had received certification as a Seizure Smart Community from the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota.
August 9th, 2016
For 14 years, Brad Lewis never knew quite what to expect when he woke up in the morning. A rare genetic disorder, tuberous sclerosis, caused a variety of health problems. But the one that disrupted his life the most was epilepsy. At one point, Brad was having as many as 80 seizures a day.
“Seizures are so unpredictable. If Brad wasn’t having a seizure, he was worried about having a seizure,” says his mother, Bernadette Lewis. “It affected every minute of his life, whether he was at school, with friends or at home.”
Brad was also dealing with other complications from his medical condition. After trying many medications and going through multiple surgeries, Brad’s parents decided they needed another expert to weigh in on the situation. That brought the family to Nicholas Wetjen, M.D., a physician in the Department of Neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Read the rest of this entry »
April 23rd, 2015
In December 2014, Gregory Cascino, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic, received a photo of a former patient. Kate Seifert was standing at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, almost 20,000 feet above sea level, at the mountain’s Uhuru Peak. The photo was accompanied by a note from Seifert’s mother.
“We will be forever grateful for the miracle you and everyone at Mayo Clinic gave to Kate and our family,” wrote Karen Seifert.
The story of that miracle begins 20 years earlier, when Kate, then a high school student in Appleton, Wisconsin, began having seizures. “I had my first complex seizure in the middle of a basketball game,” she says. “I was on my way back to the bench and fell on the ground shaking.” After a visit to the emergency department and an appointment with her primary care physician, Kate was referred to a neurologist. She was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Initially, the diagnosis had seemed to come without warning. But as Kate learned more about the condition, she realized she had been having partial seizures for several months.
“I’d have episodes where I’d feel like someone else was controlling my thoughts, or times where the corners or a wall would look huge, but the rest of the wall would look normal,” Kate says. “My mom had wanted to take me to a psychiatrist.” As the family’s epilepsy education began, they realized these episodes were sensory seizures. Soon, Kate would be having those seizures daily. Read the rest of this entry »
April 30th, 2014
A few years ago, Jessica Veach’s life was going according to plan. She’d started her career as an elementary school teacher — a dream she'd had since she was 8 years old — and was settling into married life with her husband, Colin. Jessica was also successfully managing epilepsy, which she had been diagnosed with during her freshman year at Vanderbilt University.
But in 2010, something changed.
“After 10 years of having my seizures under control with medication, they came back with a vengeance,” says Jessica, who lives in Seattle. What had been occasional simple partial seizures were now frequent complex partial seizures. Soon, Jessica was forced to take a medical leave from teaching. She had to give up driving and many of the activities she loved. And the unpredictability of her seizures, as well as the exhaustion that set in after a seizure, limited the time she was able to spend with friends.
"Giving up my independence was very difficult," she says. "I was limited to places within walking distance, or I had to rely on friends for rides."
Even with the precautions she took, Jessica faced risks. One day while Colin was at work, she fell down a flight of stairs during a seizure. “I started to be scared to do anything on my own, because I never knew when a seizure might happen,” she says. “I decided it was time to explore all of my treatment options.” Read the rest of this entry »
December 20th, 2013
My name is Jill Staloch, and I had my first seizure when I was a freshman in college. Epilepsy never impacted my life, besides having to take medications and having a yearly appointment with my doctor. It wasn’t until 2010 that my life changed because of seizures. I had been seizure free for at least 10 years, but during my pregnancy, I started to have multiple seizures weekly.
During this time, I was worried about my baby’s health, I could no longer drive or be left alone, I was having difficulties doing tasks at work, and I eventually had to be on bed rest. Even after delivering a healthy baby girl, I continued to have seizures. I still was unable to drive and couldn’t be alone with my daughter, and my family worried about me. Epilepsy had taken control of my life. My husband researched different ways we could get help. He said we needed to go to the Mayo. I was resistant but knew something different had to be done. Read the rest of this entry »
November 9th, 2013
For the past eight years, Nicole Dehn, 30, has had pangs of sadness whenever she passes a small grove of trees on the road near her Jacksonville, Fla., home. The trees are a constant reminder of the day epilepsy took her freedom.
Nov. 14 2005. It’s the day Dehn had a seizure while driving. Her car came to rest in the median atop the shrubbery.
“The trees are slanted and one is totally flat. Riding by it… it’s like a slap in the face every time,” says Dehn, who, though unharmed, lost her driving privileges.
The seizures began when she was 6 months old. They got progressively worse. Typically, medication can control seizures in most people with epilepsy. But for about 30 percent of patients, they aren't effective or are intolerable. Over the years Dehn tried various drugs and treatments, even having a device implanted in her brain in an attempt to control the seizures. Nothing seemed to work.
July 23rd, 2013
My name is Rachel Skaug, formerly Rachel Kaalberg, and I used to have epileptic seizures as a child. My seizures started at four months old, which was in 1988, and lasted until I was 10 years old, in 1998.
I am from Madison, Wis. Much of my testing happened at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. I had many tests such as blood tests, EEGs, PET scans and MRIs. I tried many medications, such as tegretol, valprocic acid, mysoline and phenobarbital, to control my seizures. I also tried the Ketogenic Diet (a diet high in fat, low in protein and low in carbohydrates). The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. It is sometimes used to help control seizures under strict medical supervision.
Medication and diet changes did not seem to work for me 100 percent. Therefore, as a last resort, I had to have surgery — I had five surgeries on the following dates: July 30, 1997; August 2, 1997; October 8, 1997; and June 8 and 10, 1998. The surgeries took place at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota.
The last surgery I had was the miracle that helped stop my seizures, and I was taken off all medications a year after my surgery. The doctors that I remember most are Dr. Zupanc and my surgeon Dr. Raffel. During the last surgery, they took a 50-cent-sized piece of my right temporal lobe out, which seemed to stop my seizures. Today I have been seizure free since June 1998 and still going strong.
After my surgeries, the doctors diagnosed me with tuberous sclerosis (a genetic disease that causes benign tumors to form in many different organs -- primarily in the brain, eyes, heart, kidney, skin and lungs). I do have a few issues with comprehension, such as remembering what I read, but I work hard to remember things in picture format to understand what I read.
My parents stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, Minnesota, during my hospital stays, and my younger brother stayed with numerous relatives during all of my hospital stays throughout the years.
I am now a healthy adult with a family and no medical issues. I continue to do checkups for lesions on my brain and in my kidneys about every two years. My experience at the Mayo Clinic was tremendous, and all the doctors and nurses that worked with me were great in helping me beat epilepsy. I am thankful and grateful for all the people involved that helped me try anything and everything to overcome my seizures.