Imagine being completely vulnerable, unable to speak, swallow or control your body as you lose consciousness, with little to no warning. For Yvonne Allen, 45, this scenario was a frequent occurrence.
Four to five times every month, Allen’s epilepsy would cause a sudden surge of electrical activity in her brain that led to a seizure.
“Epilepsy completely took over my life. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t remember things. Sometimes I’d just blank out in the middle of talking to someone. I’d come to and know that I know them, but not know their name or why I’m talking to them,” Allen said.
Despite taking more than 30 pills per day, Allen continued to have seizures.
“When I had a seizure, my doctor would adjust my medication, but it never seemed to help. I needed to try something different, so my doctor referred me to the Berman Brain & Spine Institute,” Allen said.
Explains P. Jay Foreman, Ph.D., M.D., director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute (BSI): “A seizure is caused by an abnormal electrical discharge of neurons in the brain. Because the lobes of the brain control different behaviors, movements and experiences, the site of the discharge dictates the behavior we see outwardly.”
The Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Sinai Hospital has been designated as a Level 4 center by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers, meaning it has the professional expertise, with fellowship-trained epilepsy specialists, and facilities to provide medical evaluation and treatment of the highest level for patients with complex epilepsy.
Because Allen’s epilepsy could not be controlled with medication, physicians at the BSI believed the best course of action was surgery to remove the seizure-producing area of her brain.
“I was scared to take such a drastic step, but the doctors and staff helped me feel more comfortable. And my kids and fiancé encouraged me to go through with the procedure. They worried about me constantly, never knowing when and where I would have a seizure. I needed to take hold of any opportunity to get my life back,” Allen said.
On October 15, 2015, Allen underwent a right temporal lobectomy, the first surgery of its kind performed at Sinai Hospital.
“To be considered for this type of surgery, patients undergo testing to locate the source of their seizures and to ensure that removing that region of the brain will not impact their speech, mobility or quality of life,” said Omar Zalatimo, M.D., M.P.H., M.H.A., director of Functional Neurosurgery at the BSI and Ms. Allen’s neurosurgeon.
Allen spent less than a week in the hospital following the procedure. Since the procedure, she has not had a single seizure or suffered any facial paralysis or coordination issues associated with epilepsy-related brain surgery.
“I still don’t go many places by myself, but as time goes by, I’m becoming braver. I would recommend this surgery to anybody who was struggling the way I was. I’m a brand new me, and you can barely even see a scar,” Allen said.
To schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained physicians and find out why LifeBridge Health is Baltimore's premier health care organization, call 410-601-WELL.