FORT MYERS -
About 3-million Americans live with epilepsy. And for them, medication is the first line of defense. But doctors say there’s a drug-free treatment that’s underutilized, and a local patient says she’s been seizure-free for a year since she’s been having the treatment.
Jeni Young arrived at a Fort Myers clinic Friday morning. Undiagnosed for years, she started having epileptic seizures when she was 19.
“It slowly progressed and slowly progressed and I was having three to 400 a day,” said Young.
She says they can range from grand mals to smaller tremors.
“Like when you get a cold chill and you shake,” said Young, describing the smaller tremors.
She says the seizures grew debilitating and that she was asked to leave college, quit driving and then lost her job.
But she said it was the side effects from the medications that were most difficult on the single mother.
“I wasn’t sleeping and the weight gain and the memory loss is just horrible. It literally erases years of your life,” she said.
Then she learned about a non-medication treatment – Vagus Nerve Stimulation, or VNS, Therapy.
It involves a small device that is implanted in the chest and a cord sends impulses to the vagus nerve.
Those impulses prevent electrical irregularities that cause seizures.
“It does reduce the frequency of seizures, the duration of seizures and also it makes it so our recovery time after the seizure is better – is less,” explained Dr. Jose Colon, with Lee Memorial Health System.
Young says while she did have breakthrough seizures after the device was implanted in June 2010, she hasn’t had one since last November.
Dr. Colon says the treatment is not used often enough.
“I think that the demographics will say that a lot more patients could benefit from it than actually have it,” he said.
Young says it’s changed her life.
“Now I’m completely independent, you know? I’ve got my independence back,” she said.