Tuesday, November 2, 2010 12:01 PM, EDT
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month.
So with that in mind….
Historically, epilepsy has been neglected, feared, and misunderstood. A veil of secrecy
surrounding the disease has resulted in myths, superstitions, and a general lack of knowledge.
This has impeded scientific progress toward finding answers to one of the oldest-known and
most prevalent neurological diseases, leaving treatment and research efforts in the dark ages.
It is estimated that close to 2 of the 3 million Americans with epilepsy do not have complete
seizure control, or only experience seizure control at the cost of debilitating side effects from
medications. The need for a cure is clear.
Many of the patients are children, who can experience up to hundreds of seizures a day. The
impact on the developing brain ranges from learning disabilities to retardation, and in a
disturbingly large number of patients, even death.
There is an increasingly large incidence of new onset epilepsy in the aging population as a
result of strokes, brain tumors, and Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition, for many soldiers
suffering traumatic brain injury on the battlefield, epilepsy will be a long-term consequence.
What is a Seizure?
In normal brain function, millions of tiny electrical charges pass from nerve cells in the brain to
the rest of the body. A seizure occurs when the normal pattern is interrupted by sudden and
unusually intense bursts of electrical energy which may cause strange sensations, emotions,
behaviors or convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. These unusual bursts
are called seizures.
What is Epilepsy?
When a person has had two or more seizures which have not been provoked by specific
events such as trauma, infection, fever, or chemical change, he or she is considered to have
What Causes Epilepsy?
Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve
signaling chemicals (neurotransmitters), or a combination of these factors. Causes of epilepsy
may include head injuries, brain tumors, lead poisoning, certain genetic diseases and some
infectious diseases. However, in more than half the patients with epilepsy, the cause is still
Historically, epilepsy research has been under-funded. The picture becomes clearer when
federal dollars spent per patient on research are compared with other diseases, many of
which affect fewer people.
*Epilepsy affects over 3 million Americans of all ages – more than multiple sclerosis, cerebral
palsy, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease combined. Almost 500 new cases of
epilepsy are diagnosed every day in the United States. Epilepsy affects 50,000,000 people
*In two-thirds of patients diagnosed with epilepsy, the cause is unknown.
*Epilepsy can develop at any age and can be a result of genetics, stroke, head injury, and
many other factors.
*In over thirty percent of patients, seizures cannot be controlled with treatment.
*Uncontrolled seizures may lead to brain damage and death. *Many more have only partial
control of their seizures.
*The severe epilepsy syndromes of childhood can cause developmental delay and brain
damage, leading to a lifetime of dependency and continually accruing costs—both medical and
*It is estimated that up to 50,000 deaths occur annually in the U.S. from status epileptics
(prolonged seizures), Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), and other seizure related
causes such as drowning and other accidents.
*The mortality rate among people with epilepsy is two to three times higher than the general
population and the risk of sudden death is twenty-four times greater.
*Recurring seizures are also a burden for those living with brain tumors and other disorders
*Recurring seizures are also a burden for those living with brain tumors and other disorders
such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, multiple
sclerosis, tuberous sclerosis, and a variety of genetic syndromes.
*There is a strong association between epilepsy and depression: more than one of every
three persons with epilepsy will also be affected by depression, and people with a history of
depression have a higher risk of developing epilepsy. *Historically, epilepsy research has been
under-funded. Federal dollars spent on research pale in comparison to those spent on other
diseases, many of which affect fewer people than epilepsy.
*For many soldiers suffering traumatic brain injury on the battlefield, epilepsy will be a long term
When providing seizure first aid for seizures, these are the key things to remember: (this
list was specifically written for tonic-clonic seizures – formerly known as Grand-Mal. However
they really do apply to any seizure)
Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
Don’t hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
Time the seizure with your watch.
Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
Put something flat and soft, like a folded jacket, under the head.
Turn him or her gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear.
Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. A person
having a seizure CANNOT swallow his tongue. Efforts to hold the tongue down can
injure teeth or jaw.
Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not
start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally.
Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns. THIS IS TRUE FOR ANY SEIZURE
TYPE! Especially in children, simply stroking an arm and letting them know it will be okay,
you are there and it will be over soon is a great comfort. It is probably the #1 thing to
do other than timing the event and making sure they are not going to get physically hurt
by nearby objects.
Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if he seems confused or
unable to get home by himself.
Want to help – kids like Becca, or one of her friends who suffers from multiple daily seizures?
How about this Christmas, or on their Birthday, instead of giving them another toy or more
clothes, donating money to the Epilepsy foundation in their name. Of course you don’t have
to wait for a special occasion – our kids need a cure now!
Monday, November 8, 2010 6:15 PM, EST
We have officially been on the diet one month – including the time I’ve been home doing it on my own. Things are going well. Becca is not seizure free – but we’ve had some really good days. It can also be noted that the seizures Becca does have are not as hard on her little body. Even on a day she had a fairly high amount of seizure events she did not require naps to sleep off the seizures. Just two months ago, she would have been sleeping the better part of the day with identical seizure activity. This time – she didn’t skip a beat! That in and of itself is a blessing. This allows her more time to watch and learn about the world around her. Her walking is greatly improved. People who know her are noticing and
commenting to me how much better she is walking. I LOVE this! We are continuing to tweak things with this diet. That is the reason for our 3 month commitment. Trying to get things just right of how we are spreading out Becca’s meals and calories. We were doing 4 meals a day. However in an attempt to make the last meal of the day later, so she didn’t go as long overnight, it meant I woke her up to get her to eat. There was a downside to this – whenever I woke Becca up it triggered seizures. We’ve known for years that if she was sleeping off a seizure to not wake her up or it would trigger more seizures.
However, I’m guessing the same thing holds true when she was in that early restorative sleep stage. Since she would never have been in bed long – it meant I was disrupting sleep. So we have switched her to 3 meals per day. If it seems like she is hungry through the day we can change this to
3 meals and a snack. Pretty much any combination. There are some set #s for her dietary needs (Calories, Fat, Protein, and Carbs). Its a tad more complicated and its set up for me by her dietitian.
I am so happy with how well she is doing so far. Hoping she continues to improve!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 4:28 PM, EST
Just had to update that we got progress reports from school for Becca and they brought happy tears to my eyes. Becca is now signing “more” (although it is a bit of a modified sign) with a little prompting. I’ve been working on this sign with her for years. She “gets it” now!
She is attending to books!
She is using the switch (controller) for the computer
Showing clear preference for toys.
Her walking is getting better and more natural.
Not all of this is a direct result of the diet – some of this is just my little girl growing up. But my little girl is growing up. She is in such a wonderful program in school and has such awesome teachers and therapists who work with her.
She is coming right along – slow and steady at her own Becca-speed!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 1:18 PM, EST
Many of you know already – but some don’t. Rebecca’s MRI a couple weeks ago showed that her shunt was not working properly. She went from appearing quite stable to a dramatic change in her seizure quality and being more fatigued/lethargic during the day. She is going to bed soon
Neurosurgery has decided that her shunt must be revised. Becca and I spent a long day at Duke yesterday meeting with the doctor, pre-op and such to plan things. She will have surgery on Monday.
the reason for the “wait” is of course because it is a holiday weekend and she isn’t in shunt crisis – just in a slow steady decline. I’ll find out this afternoon what time her surgery will be. It involves staying overnight in the hospital. Only one night presuming all goes well. Please – pray that this helps her. Pray that the reason she was still having seizures on the Ketogenic diet was really because her shunt was already causing pressure and problems. Pray that once she heals that the diet will WORK 100% for her. I dream of the day my child doesn’t have seizures every day. Today has been a BAD seizure day. I’ve lost count One or two before we got to OT in the morning, multiple events at OT, more on the ride home, and more during Speech therapy. I’ve put her in bed for a nice long nap so she can rest and sleep.
I have made up a recipe for a Thanksgiving meal for Becca that is Keto friendly. She’ll get to have some Turkey just like the rest of us. A small amount of green beans AND I’ve got a pumpkin pie type concoction for her. so her own special Turkey day meal.
Saturday, November 27, 2010 8:24 AM, EST
We have to be at Duke at 7:30 on Monday for Rebecca’s shunt surgery. Hopefully this will fix all of the issues she has had lately – the bad seizures, the increased sleepiness, the stumble in her gait.
She enjoyed visiting family over thanksgiving, and her special Thanksgiving Ketogenic Meals.
BTW – if anyone hasn’t read this article from the NY Times it is a GREAT read
All about the diet Becca is on. On another note – we are finally getting Rebecca’s new special needs
It will be nice for her, since her long legs are just getting too long for a regular stroller.
It takes forever to get equipment through her Waiver program for her disabilities. But finally our equipment place has it in for her! We’ll get it on Thursday.
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.
Monday, November 29, 2010 2:40 PM, EST
Surgery is over and we are in a room.
Doctor replaced the valve and the tubing in her head. Becca is doing well and playing in her bed.
Friday, December 10, 2010 6:10 PM, EST
Rebecca is bouncing back after her surgery. We had follow up with Neurosurgery yesterday. Dr. Grant was running really late. I’ve learned not to grumble too much – as long as I’m kept up to date (and I know we are not forgotten). One of the nurses we love had told us he was running behind. That’s fine – it happens. Emergencies come up.
We mentioned to Dr. Grant Becca was doing well but still having a lot of seizures – upwards of 10 or 12 a day (the count was over 12 that day). I mentioned how previously we’d done an extra clonazepam dose for a couple days to break these kinds of cycles. I’m guessing she is just in a bad cycle now. He mentioned that Dr. Mikati is in NF clinic today and we could ask him. So he goes out and asks him. I hear them talking and of course Dr. Mikati wants to see Becca (in a good way – not must see before
approving meds way). So Dr. Mikati adjusts her VNS so that the time that it is “off” is shorter. We also decide that I’ll give the extra clonazepam through the weekend. Gave extra dose at dinner last night and today has already been a better day. That stuff works quick. Its always been one medication I love. We
tried to wean her off of it – simply because it is bad to be on for too many years (highly addictive) – and her seizures got way worse. So we know it is helping.
Also – as an aside I’ve discovered the “Ultra pasteurized Heavy Cream”
has ingredients other than cream (milk)! It has mono and di-glycerides and Polysorbate 80, carrageenan –
those add up to additives which could be triggering more seizures!
So now I’m trekking over to whole foods to shell out the $$$$ for Heavy Cream that isn’t “Ultra” Pasteurized. Don’t know why some cream is Ultra Pasteurized and some is simply Pasteurized.
But I’m going to eliminate these yucky additives and hope it cuts out these residual seizures she would be having (presuming she isn’t in her bad cycle or in shunt failure). On a funny note – Becca is turning into a climber. She likes to climb over the arm of her recliner. Tonight she tried to climb up the arm of the sofa. If it wasn’t a cold winter I’d take this kid to the playground. I think she would suddenly love the place.
** updated to add a picture of Becca and Santa at our local Family Support
Network ‘Cookies and Cocoa with Santa’ Event
Becca had a Blast. She did some Crafts, played some games and had her picture taken with Santa.
Sunday, December 26, 2010 6:50 AM, EST
The presents are unwrapped, the food is gone (except bountiful yummy leftovers!) and we are now in Christmas hangover.Except for a bump in our road Christmas morning – Becca had an AWESOME
Christmas. we gave her Diastat Christmas morning, Daddy and I were not going to things get bad and let her be miserable. 3 events within an hour of her being awake and we knew she had enough. After her diastat nap she had a GREAT day. We went off to my dad’s house and had fun! However – I should say that was day TWO! On Friday we spent the day with her Grandparents in the High Point area (Daddy’s family). Becca had a blast opening presents. She would rip open gifts even if they were not
hers (little stinker!). Every now and then both days she had her eyes set on a certain gift and just HAD to get that one open. Friday at Grandpa’s house it was a gift bag for me. Saturday there were a few presents she was bound and determined to get open. It was too cute! Of course both days towards the end of the day she was just done with things. She’d want nothing to do with trying to unwrap things, or all all the commotion. She was ready to just go do her own thing again. I’ll upload pictures to our Kodak Gallery later (and probably a few here and Facebook).
Merry Christmas Everyone – I hope you had a blessed day.