Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Struggling against Daily Seizures

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Struggling against Daily Seizures

Article excerpt

Stephen and Vicki Brown's introduction to epilepsy was quite traumatic. In June 1994, just two months shy of three years old, their daughter, Genevieve--Geni--experienced her first seizure: a five-minute grand mal convulsion. At the time, she was being treated with antibiotics prescribed by her pediatrician for a presumed sinus infection. Once epilepsy had been diagnosed, Geni's first neurologist told her parents that the symptoms they had been seeing two weeks before the seizure were "text book" for epilepsy.

From June on seizures came in spurts, but eventually increased to 15 or 20 a day. In March 1996, Geni was given Lamictal and remained seizure-free until April 1998 when episodes slowly began to return. That autumn she was having about a dozen a month. By January 1999, however, seizures were consistently occurring each week. Four months later, she was having many a day, every day--drop attacks and atonic seizures. Surgery was considered, but, in April 1999, after a three-day video EEG that allowed doctors to see the seizures as the EEG recorded them, Geni was ruled out as a candidate for the procedure. The lesion in her brain that was causing the seizures was too close to her motor area. The doctors could not rule out paralysis as a result of surgery. Medication seemed the only hope. She was taking over 30 pills a day--Topamax and Lamictal--to try to control seizure activity.


As a second grader at St. William's, a parochial school in her hometown, Geni began to excel academically. "She had a very nurturing teacher," her mom notes. Down time due to seizures, however, made it very difficult for her. Third grade, starting in fall of 2000, has been a struggle for Geni. Multiple daily seizures have meant she often has to leave school for the day, and Vicki and Stephen must try to help her make up what she misses, especially in reading. They have also contracted with Sylvan Learning Center to help her with math skills. "You do what you can do for your child," Vicki explains. Geni's favorite subjects are reading--animal stories, in particular--and math, even with the need for extra tutoring. "She's very verbal," Vicki asserts, "you wouldn't know she's struggling in school."

Geni's seizures do not keep her from being an active nine-year-old. Though Brownies is no longer considered cool, she looks forward to playing basketball and roller skating (with helmet and kneepads). Swimming lessons this past summer, however, had to be cancelled. She was having too many seizures. "We encourage her but do not force her into anything," Vicki explains. Geni continues to enjoy swimming once a week under close parental watch.

While her seizures may inhibit participation in some sports, she is an avid spectator--and especially when it involves the teams of the University of Wisconsin in nearby Madison. Her hero: Bucky Badger, the school's sports mascot.

Traveling is something the entire family enjoys, especially to national parks. Geni has visited 13 states, including Texas, California, Arizona, Utah, Missouri, Illinois, and Nevada. This year she travels to Hawaii where the University of Wisconsin's football team will play the University of Hawaii. Bucky Badger will be there, too.

Geni's most basic love, however, is of animals. As of now, she has aspirations to become a veterinarian. Meanwhile, she dotes on brother and sister kittens, Duke and Duchess, as well as Chesi, the family's Chesapeake Bay retriever.

The thing Geni most despises are her seizures. …

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