Teens hold 'tea party' as alternative to dance
10:00 PM, Jun 23, 2012
Taylor Held, a junior at Great Falls High, holds a 'dance alternative' party in Gibson Park with her friends. TRIBUNE PHOTO/ABBY REDFERNTayler Held, a 17-year-old Great Falls High School Student, used to space out dozens of times a day. She was having "absence seizures," the result of epilepsy.
"You kind of just sit there and you zone out and don't hear anything anybody says," Held said.
Today, the absence seizures are gone.
The only reminder of them is a tiny scar on her upper chest. That's where a battery, or pulse generator, about the size of a 50-cent piece was implanted. A thread-like wire attached to the battery runs through her neck and delivers a shock to the brain for 30 seconds every five minutes.
It's called Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy.
"It's kind of like a pacemaker, but it's for your brain," Held said.
Held and about 20 of her friends gathered Saturday at Gibson Park in Great Falls to have a "tea party" in which they drank sweet tea, talked and had a good time. The event — not a "dance" they said — was an alternative for students who say they dislike the "grinding" that occurs at school-sponsored dances.
But in Held's case, the dirty dancing wasn't just a turn-off. Strobe lights at a dance could trigger a seizure.
"I don't want to be a bearer of bad news and tell them to turn them off," she said. "We've been saying, 'We should throw our own party.'"
VNS Therapy is manufactured by Cyberonics Inc. in Houston Texas.
The pacemaker-like device delivers mild, intermittently pulsed signals to the patient's left vagus nerve, which then activates various areas of the brain.
More than 60,000 patients have used the VNS Therapy for treatment of refractory epilepsy, according to the company.
Held said she used to have 100 absence seizures a day, each lasting about 10 seconds. Her grades started to drop,
She had her first grand mal seizure when she was in the seventh grade. She was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 12. Medication for the epilepsy caused depression, which affected her grades and her outlook.
Then a year ago, Held received the implant.
"Now I feel more outgoing and stuff because of it," she said.
Held has not had an absence seizure since. She's had three grand mal seizures.
James McGary, Held's 17-year-old boyfriend, says he's noticed a difference.
"I think it's really helped her out because she doesn't just have to keep taking medications," he said.
Today, he worries more about her than she does about herself, he said.
Held started painting when she was diagnosed with epilepsy and hopes to one day be a painter, an art teacher or both. Most of her work to date has been abstract or scenery paintings but she's also work on a few portraits of people.
She's considering attending Montana State University in Bozeman.