Brain surgery could cure epilepsy

By Nadia Crow

Published 05/15 2014 01:41PM

Updated 05/15 2014 05:33PM

MURRAY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah)- 18,000 people in Utah have the disorder. In our continued partnership with Intermountain Medical Center, we take a closer look at what epilepsy is and how it can be treated.

30 years ago, Rebecca Farnsworth ran the St. George Marathon. The next day she had her very first seizure.

“A bitter taste, kind of a panicked feeling. I zone out. I have no idea what happened. Some people tell me I talk real fast, and I say numbers real facts,” said Rebecca Farnsworth who has epilepsy.

After being diagnosed with epilepsy, she started taking medicine to control it. But not before it stripped her of freedoms and pleasures in life.

“I wouldn't dare get in the car with my kids and go anywhere. If I have epilepsy it can happen at anytime,” said Farnsworth.

Intermountain Medical Center Neurologist and Epileptologist Dr. Jeffrey Bigelow says seizures don’t have to be someone passing out, shaking, and convulsing.

“Sometimes just a seizure could be starring off and not responding, and some people might just have their arm shaking. They could be awake and aware and that could be a seizure, too,” said Intermountain Medical Center Neurologist and Epileptologist Dr. Jeffrey Bigelow.

For most patients, Dr. Bigelow says medicine works. But after 30 years, Farnsworth became allergic to hers. She started having daily seizures. Sometimes she would have two and three a day. The next option for Farnsworth was brain surgery.

“There are a lot of people out there who seizure surgery would work for them. But they've never been offered it, they've never heard of it, or a lot of times they would be too nervous to pursue it,” said Dr. Bigelow.

“With such a high percentage rate that they told me I could probably be cured, I thought, I have to try it,” said Farnsworth.

Dr. Bigelow looked at Farnsworth’s brain activity before, during and after a seizure.

“Right here we're about two minutes before seizure and I see a sharp wave over her right temporal lobe,” said Dr. Bigelow.

Suddenly, they dramatically change. All the brain waves in the right temporal lobe show more activity. And then, just as quickly as it began…

“It builds and then it suddenly stops,” said Dr. Bigelow.

So Dr. Bigelow removed a portion of her brain where the abnormality was in December. And now for Farnsworth…

“So far, I haven't had a seizure since the surgery,” said Farnsworth.

She went back to her normal life; a driver’s license, outdoor activities. She regained the freedoms epilepsy took away.

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