Imagine something as simple as taking a shower filling you with anxiety. Will you have another seizure? Fall and injure yourself … again? How bad will it be this time? That was the reality for a woman who’s lived with epilepsy most of her life and finally found relief through responsive neurostimulation (RNS) implant at Aurora BayCare Medical Center.
“Falling in a shower, knocking your head, breaking a hip, drowning,” said Green Bay’s Angie Baeten, explaining what went through her mind each day as she stepped in the shower.
For Baeten, the simple act of bathing had become an anxiety-provoking event.
“That may sound silly,” she said.
But experience had taught her, that it’s anything but silly.
“I was home by myself in the shower,” Baeten recalled. “I woke up, naked, in bed, wet… no idea what happened. Then, ‘Oh, I got a big knot on my head. I had a seizure in the shower.’”
Baeten had been dealing with epileptic seizures since she was first diagnosed at age 15.
“It’s been a lifelong thing for me,” Baeten explained. “On again, off-again, on-again, off-again.”
The medical treatments she tried offered little relief
“Since 2009 I’ve been on meds, straight up,” she said. “Follow-ups once a year, twice a year after I’ve had seizures, that type of thing.”
But the fact that she’d tried medication and it didn’t work, was actually one reason she was considered a candidate for a new surgical procedure called Responsive Neurostimulation or RNS implant.
“With seizures, if you fail two or more medicines, you really should be coming to see an epileptologist,” said Dr. Shawn Whitton, the neurologist/epileptologist at Aurora BayCare who saw Baeton for the cutting-edge treatment
Angela is the second patient that we’ve had for me here personally.
Whitton describes the complicated brain surgery procedure in more familiar terms.
“Basically what it is, it’s almost like a defibrillator,” Whitton explained.
Actually, so does Baeten; admitting her initial impression of the RNS implant was less than enthusiastic
“Putting basically Frankenstein bolts in my head to monitor my brain waves,” she recalled with a chuckle.
Perhaps the modern version of Frankenstein bolts, an RNS implant does involve electrode strips on the surface of the brain connected to a generator battery that Whitton says is implanted on the surface of the skull. This allows doctors to see brain wave activity that may precede a seizure and program the device to intervene.
“So, it recognizes that pattern it delivers an electrical impulse to the brain to abort the seizure,” explained Whitton.
For Baeten, what once filled her with visions of old horror movies, now fills her with optimism
“I had surgery on January 18th of this year and, knock on wood, I have not had a seizure since,” Baeten said.
Baeten says she wants people living with epilepsy, which isn’t being helped by medication, to know they’re not alone. She understands their stress and the struggle and wants them to know there is hope.
“If you’re frustrated by it, you are not the only one,” Baeten said. “Talk to your neurologist about seeing an epileptologist.”