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Medical Breakthroughs: Hemispherectomy procedure to treat epilepsy

Medical Breakthroughs: Hemispherectomy procedure to treat epilepsy
1 month 1 day 17 hours ago Wednesday, June 12 2024 Jun 12, 2024 June 12, 2024 11:42 AM June 12, 2024 in News

Epilepsy is a condition that causes uncontrollable seizures.

It can develop anytime, but often time it develops when you're a child. It can be treated with drugs, but now there's new hope for children when those drugs don't work. 

Ela Allam was born a fighter.

"We were told Ela's not going to walk, she's not gonna talk," Ela's father, Alex Allam, said.

She had suffered a stroke before she was born, but with therapy, Ela defied the odds, but then, a few years later, seizures started.

"To see your kid, 7, 8 years old, just collapsing on the floor, and you don't know if she's going to wake up or not," Alex said. 

Medication stopped working, Ela was having three, four, five seizures a day, and she was falling behind in school.

A final resort, brain surgery.

Pediatric Neurologist Muhammad Zafar said Duke Health believed Ela's brain had shifted important functions away from the damaged area to other parts of the brain.

"So, her function that was supposed to be carried on by the right hemisphere, moved to the left hemisphere because the injury happened very early in life," Zafar said.

A team at Duke Health performed a hemispherectomy to disconnect the damaged side of her brain from the healthy side.

"We are removing one part of the brain, but for her, fortunately, that's what saved her life," Zafar said.

Soon after, Ela started reading, she's doing well in school and even learned to swim. She hasn't had a single seizure.

"She's opening up. It's like, her brain was locked with a key and somebody just opened it," Alex said.

Ela is expected to continue to improve and hopefully, with more therapy, as she grows, she will not show any signs of the stroke she had before she was born.

Zafar expects her to be off all seizure medication also.

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