New therapy offered in Jackson can reduce seizures for some epileptics
Published: Tuesday, January 03, 2012, 4:23 PM
Gordon Batterson spent most of his life suffering from multiple seizures every month, until undergoing a relatively new therapy known as Vagus Nerve Stimulation.
“I was on a lot of different meds that weren’t controlling them,” Batterson said.
At the age of 10, the 41-year-old Blackman Township resident was diagnosed with epilepsy, a disorder of the nervous system that results from surges in electrical signals inside the brain, causing recurring seizures, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Daniel Freeman, a neurologist at Allegiance Professional Center in Jackson, recommended VNS therapy. The therapy typically reduces seizures by 20 percent to 40 percent and frees 5 percent of patients from seizures completely.
“This works well for patients who have tried multiple medications or had adverse reactions to medicines,” Freeman said. “It’s free of the side effects that the pills can cause.”
Side effects from Batterson’s anti-epileptic medication included weight gain, excessive sleeping and excessive sweating. Since the surgery, he has reduced his medications by half, and the formerly 236-pound man now weighs 153 pounds.
He worried about having surgery to implant the device underneath the skin of his chest and wrap wires around the vagus nerve in his neck. But seven years later, the seizures — which came four to six times a month — occur once every three to four months, and the migraines that follow them have been greatly reduced, Batterson said. The injuries caused by the seizures, including a torn rotator cuff, have been eliminated, he added.
“It was like winning a million dollars to me,” Batterson said.
He’s also regained his freedom.
“I didn’t have my (driver’s) license for seven years (before the surgery) because I couldn’t stop having (seizures),” Batterson said. “I have my license back and I can go places.”
VNS therapy delivers short bursts of electrical energy to the brain through the vagus nerve. Patients receive a special magnet to swipe across their chest when they feel a seizure coming on. That either stops the seizure or gives the patient time to seek help, Batterson said, adding he feels an “aura” when a seizure is coming.
“The only way I can describe it is it feels like (my arm) isn’t there,” he said.
There are two main forms of epilepsy — partial, which start in one part of the brain, and generalized, where the whole brain fires off an electrical charge all at once, Freeman said.
Batterson suffers from partial complex seizures, Freeman said.
“For Gordon, in particular, nothing controlled his seizures,” Freeman said. “(VNS) has made a big difference.”
Freeman has up to 20 patients who have had VNS therapy in the past 14 years. All have had a reduction in seizure frequency, and one is seizure free.
“I’ve come a long way, even though I have other medical issues,” said Batterson, who also suffers from chronic pancreatitis, a painful condition caused by a birth defect.
Having his daughters Taylor, 5, and Ashlee, 20, and the support of his fiancée, Lisa, helps him adjust to his medical challenges.
“I have to look at it day by day,” Batterson said. “And I look at my daughter (Taylor) every day and I smile because she’s there for me and I’ve got to be there for her.”
Some symptoms of epileptic seizures
• Temporary confusion
• A staring spell
• Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
• Loss of consciousness or awareness
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, a person with epilepsy will tend to have the same type of seizure each time.
Source: The Mayo Clinic