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Neurology & Neurosurgery Archive

For One Couple, Expert Neurology Care Makes All the Difference

Posted on January 30th, 2014 by mayoclinic

Barbara and Jim Smith

Mayo Clinic patients Barbara and Jim Smith

In one brief statement, Barbara Smith can sum up the impact that the staff in the Department of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona had on her and her husband as they faced several difficult and frightening medical problems: "They are our life-changing heroes." 

For 40 years, seizures were just part of life for Barbara. Dealing with them since she was a teen, she always assumed they were caused by epilepsy. But in 2007, the seizures became more frequent and more severe. At the same time, Barbara began having other problems, too. She developed a stutter and often had headaches. Walking became more difficult, and she had unexplained weight loss.

Barbara went to several neurologists. No one could provide her with answers. In desperation on a Friday evening, Barbara's husband, Jim, called Mayo Clinic to see if they could get an appointment. "That phone call changed my life," says Barbara.

Within a week, the couple arrived at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where Barbara underwent two weeks of evaluation, including five days of observation in the hospital's epilepsy monitoring unit. Part of that evaluation involved using unique imaging technology known as SISCOM, or subtraction ictal SPECT coregistered to MRI. Pioneered at Mayo Clinic, SISCOM is particularly useful in pinpointing areas of the brain where seizures occur. Read the rest of this entry »

Living Life to the Fullest After Epilepsy Surgery

Posted on December 20th, 2013 by mayoclinic

Jill Staloch before and after

Jill Staloch with her daughter -- left, in the hospital in May 2012, before her first surgery, and right, in July 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 »

Traveling the Road of Life, Seizure-Free

Posted on November 9th, 2013 by mayoclinic

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Overcoming Epilepsy

Posted on July 23rd, 2013 by mayoclinic

Rachel Skaug pictured four days after my surgery in 1998 and a current picture of her in good health.

Rachel Skaug pictured four days after my surgery in 1998 and a current picture of her in good health


My name is Rachel Skaug, formerly Rachel Kaalberg, and I used to have seizures as a child. My seizures started in 1988, when I was just at 4 months old and lasted until I was 10 years old in 1998.

I am from Madison, WI but much of my testing happened at the Mayo Clinic -Rochester, MN. I had many tests such as EEGs, and the nurses were great. Read the rest of this entry »

Soccer Mom Strokes on the Field

Posted on May 29th, 2013 by Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

Jessica Cook and her sons (from left) Jonah, Josh and Jacob.

The phrase “soccer mom” might be a cliché, but for Jessica Cook of Jacksonville, Fla., it was apropos. The mom of three boys (ages 6, 10 and 13) spent hours in the car each week driving her sons from one field to another for their weekly soccer practices and games.

With a family history of migraines, headaches were not uncommon for Cook, 33. So when she awoke on the morning of Sept. 24, 2011, she dismissed the growing ache to ensure the boys got to the soccer field on time. But as the hours went on, Cook’s pain worsened. She began to feel nauseous, too. Thinking the heat and humidity were contributing to her symptoms, Cook headed for her car, hoping air conditioning might help.

But then she fell down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mayo’s caring attitude brings hope to patient

Posted on April 3rd, 2013 by makalajohnson

Jim and Louanne, with black walnut veneer logs cut on their farmJim Brooks was vacationing with his family in Spain when suddenly he couldn’t speak for 10 minutes and wound up in the hospital. Jim and his wife Louanne decided together they wanted to return to their Minnesota home and Mayo Clinic.

Jim was diagnosed in August 2012 at Mayo Clinic with glioblastoma, stage 4 brain cancer: he had a ticking time bomb in his head. “Our first appointment was a week after we saw our family physician, and a week after that, I had surgery.  I am thankful for the rapid and coordinated care at Mayo Clinic, and people going the extra step when they didn’t have to,” he said.  Jim received care from not only the surgeon and the doctors, but also many others who were involved with his treatment. “Our sense is that we’ve interacted with somewhere between 100-200 people directly, and indirectly 1,000 people that had a part in my care,” said Jim. Read the rest of this entry »

Seizure-free after new surgery

Posted on March 5th, 2013 by makalajohnson

Arden and dog, HappyOne of Arden Berge's most surprising discoveries while he was a graduate student in meteorology had nothing to do with the weather.

"I'd been lying on the bed reading, and all of a sudden I looked up and there were paramedics standing over me," says Berge. He'd soon learn why. He'd had a seizure, and his girlfriend, Deb (now his wife), called 911 for help. Berge was taken to a hospital, where he had another seizure. He was diagnosed with epilepsy.

While epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in children or adults over 65, it can develop at any age. The cause of the disorder can sometimes be traced to a head injury or medical issue, such as meningitis or encephalitis. But in about half of all cases - including Berge's - there is no identifiable cause.

While it was a scary diagnosis, medications made the condition manageable for Berge, who finished his degree and started his career. He adjusted to life with seizures and to the side effects of medication. Then, 33 years after his diagnosis, a trip to Mayo Clinic offered the possibility of a seizure-free life. Read the rest of this entry »

Surgery to treat epilepsy leaves woman seizure-free

Posted on December 30th, 2012 by mayoclinic

Carla HuelsmannCarla Huelsmann was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 2. Throughout her childhood and early adult years, she experienced mainly petit mal seizures. Occasionally, she experienced slurred speech and lost her train of thought.

Although she disliked having the disease, medication helped keep her seizures to a minimum and allowed Huelsmann to do many of the things she wanted. She attended college, got married and welcomed a daughter, Kelsey.

Read the rest of this entry »

Multifocal motor neuropathy

Posted on December 30th, 2012 by Margaret Shepard

Cecilia VangorpCecilia Van Gorp woke one morning to find that she had lost movement in her right hand.

"I immediately called the doctor, fearing I had had a stroke," says Van Gorp.

A visit with her doctor ruled out a stroke. Several appointments with specialists and numerous tests followed, but didn't bring her any closer to a diagnosis.

As the weeks passed, Van Gorp's right hand would sometimes clench up, then eventually release. The muscles in her arm were beginning to atrophy, and she was losing strength in other limbs as well.

Finally, a specialist suggested that Van Gorp might have ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. He offered to refer her to an ALS specialist at Mayo Clinic or another medical facility. She chose Mayo. Read the rest of this entry »

Deep Brain Stimulation Gets Police Detective Back on the Job

Posted on December 28th, 2012 by Margaret Shepard

Jeff Hughes and family

Jeffrey Hughes with his family.

The pain was unbearable, and the questions even worse.

Every month of 2005, Detective Jeffery Hughes of the Madison, WI, Police Department experienced 55 to 60 headaches, each lasting several hours. The headaches brought him to his knees in pain, but it was the recurring question from his daughter that hurt even more: "Mommy, why is Daddy crying on the bathroom floor again?"

The answer: cluster headache, a rare condition considered to be the most intensely painful primary headache syndrome. It sometimes occurs in more than one family member. So when Hughes, now 38, began developing episodic cluster headaches in 1992, he recognized them as the same ailment his grandfather had. For 13 years, Hughes suffered 5 to 7 debilitating headaches a month, an unpleasant pattern but one he learned to tolerate.

In 2005, no one knows why, his headaches suddenly mushroomed to 55 to 60 a month. With two headaches a day lasting for 6 to 7 hours, it didn't leave much time for anything else in his life. His primary care physician tried maximum doses of every medication and therapy--with no lasting results. Read the rest of this entry »