Valley woman’s rare epilepsy condition calls attention to need for neuroscience research in area

2 years 3 months 1 week ago Monday, November 15 2021 Nov 15, 2021 November 15, 2021 4:56 PM November 15, 2021 in News - Local

A Valley woman’s rare epilepsy condition, one that caused her to lose part of her memory, is calling attention to the need for more neuroscience research in the area.

Valley resident Isabel Serna recalls only what she can remember after experiencing an extreme seizure in September.

“She walked outside the house and fell on the porch, cut herself on the head,” said Serna’s husband, Homero. “My neighbors called 911. I didn’t know she was having a seizure.”

Serna’s family rushed her to the hospital, where she experienced several more seizures.

“It was like four or five every hour, for about three, four, five minutes each,” Homero said. “It was very difficult to watch her.”

Serna was hospitalized for weeks. Over time she recovered, but she had lost her memory and didn't even remember her husband.

DHR epilepsy medical director, Dr. Leonel Estofan, diagnosed Serna with autoimmune encephalitis. It’s a rare condition that is difficult to identify

. “This seizure starts to kill the brain cells that manages the memory, the language, the cognitive area,” said Dr. Estofan.

Dr. Estofan says he sees more than 600 epilepsy patients in a year. The intricate condition of Serna‘s condition brings attention to one of the reasons he believes more robust research and certified neuroscience infrastructure is needed in the Valley.

“With seizures and patients with epilepsy in the Valley, there are a lot of patients suffering epilepsy in the Valley,” Dr. Estofan said. “There is a lot of research we are bringing to try and help improve the quality of life.”

Dr. Estofan says right now, the hospital is in the works of preparing more research epilepsy projects and working on getting the neuroscience institute certified.

As for Isabel, she says she’s recovering her memory, enjoying life with her family again and looking forward to the future.

“The medications are working great, I haven’t had a seizure and I'm looking forward to going back to work,” Serna said.

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