Epilepsy Awareness Month

Health Watch

GREEN BAY, Wisc. (WFRV) – More than 3.4 million people in the U.S. have epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. One third of those people live with uncontrolled seizures because no available treatment works for them. One young woman from Hobart feared she might be one of those people, until a neurologist at Aurora BayCare Medical Center gave her a whole new lease on life.

“My epilepsy limited me in so many ways,” said Andrea Barney from Hobart. “My thinking was clouded, my memory was really bad.”

Epilepsy is something Barney had been dealing with most of her life.

“When I was 10 years old, I had my first seizure,” Barney explained.

Doctors initially removed a malformation of blood vessels causing Barney’s seizures, which helped for a while.  But the seizures came back

“I was 16 when I started having seizures regularly,” she said.

Doctors first tried medications to help.

“I have been on multiple medications,” Barney recalled. “They would help me to a certain extent, but they never even got close to stopping them.”

Barney began to fear she would just have to learn to live with a limited life.

“I was limited in the things I could do because of safety reasons, like even driving myself to the grocery store,” Barney explained.

Neurologist and Epileptologist Dr. Shawn Whitton saw Barney shortly after he joined Aurora Baycare in 2019.

“I repeated the EEG which showed me that in that area where she had the previous problem, I saw a lot of sparks in that area,” Whitton described.

Whitton uses the analogy of sparks and fire to illustrate how abnormal brain waves can indicate where in the brain a seizure may happen.  The more sparks, the more likely a seizure.

“So then you can gauge where exactly those seizures are coming from,” explained Whitton. 

Through extensive testing and the collaboration of a large team of specialists…

“Myself, a couple other epileptologists, an epilepsy neurosurgeon, neuropsychologist, and neuroradiology and we discuss patients who are  potential surgical options,” said Whitton.

…the team at Aurora BayCare was able to pinpoint the source of Barney’s seizures and surgically eliminate it.

“He can go in and take that part of the brain out,” Whitton explained.

Giving Barney a whole new outlook on life.

“Both my memory and mental clarity have improved so much,” Barney said. “I have a much better quality of life.”

Dr. Whitton also says just like all seizures don’t look alike, everything that jerks and twitches is not necessarily an epileptic seizure. There are a number of conditions that can cause that type of movement and you need a thorough medical evaluation to be sure.

To learn more, visit aurorabaycare.com or use their LiveWell app. You can give them a call at 1-866-938-0035 or email: healthwatch@aurorabaycare.com

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