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Surgical Case Study — Carl’s story
Carl, a warehouse operative has been seizure-free since undergoing temporal lobe surgery in 1988.

“My seizures began during my school years, and by the age of 17, it looked unlikely that my epilepsy was going to disappear naturally. Instead, the simple and complex partial seizures I experienced were becoming more of a burden to my life.

At the age of 18, I was referred to a specialist epilepsy clinic. At my first appointment, a specialist informed me about something I had in no way expected to hear: there could be a chance they could operate on my brain and actually remove the point from which the overflow of electrical impulses was originating – providing it wasn’t too close to a delicate, essential area in my brain.

I had to undergo a number of different examinations to assess chances of success. The test I remember most was the WADA test. I was shown several simple objects and asked to remember what I’d seen. An anaesthetic drug was then injected into my body. For a few minutes, the left side of my brain was put to sleep. Although feeling very drowsy, I was able to answer questions about what I’d seen. This confirmed I had sufficient memory in my right temporal lobe.

I lay awake in bed at night, praying that the results from the rest of the tests would turn out to make me suitable for surgery. After weeks of tension, my prayers were answered. I was given an appointment with a neurosurgeon for a run-through discussion about the risks and benefits of temporal lobe surgery.

I was put on a waiting list, which lasted seven months. During this period, I suffered quite badly with stress and anxiety, experiencing many contrasting thoughts and views about the operation, some being positive ones of a much better future, others being frightening ones of disaster, pressuring me not to go ahead. Finally, the time arrived where if I wanted the operation, I had to sign the authorisation form to go ahead. This was, and I’m sure will remain, the hardest decision of my life.

On the morning of Monday 1st February, my operation took place. I vaguely remember coming round from the anaesthetic to hear my mother’s voice saying, “He can speak!” In my case, one of the low percentage risks had been that of interference with my speech as the section of my brain on which the surgery was being performed lay close to that responsible for speech control.”

 

“My recovery was relatively quick. I was back on my feet and, apart from the obvious headache, I didn’t feel too bad, just tired and bewildered after taking such a courageous step forward.”

 

“The part of my skull which had been temporarily removed during surgery was a piece situated between the left eye socket and the jawbone connection. I found that for a short period of time, I was unable to open my mouth to its full capacity; I also found that if I opened my eyes wide, only the right eyebrow rose. Again, this was a temporary effect and, during its short term presence, was viewed with humour.

I didn’t feel energetic enough to do anything for a few days, and probably appeared miserable in the eyes of those who came to visit me. My stitches were removed after six days and I was then discharged. My local GP provided me with a sick note for 12 weeks, during which I was advised to take it easy. It was now time to wait in hope to see if the operation had been successful.

After a year being free of seizures, my consultant decided that it was time to start reducing my antiepileptic drugs. He explained clearly that this had to be a gradual process as too sudden a reduction in drugs could lead to withdrawal effects. My daily dose was reduced by half a tablet once every two months, and I soon began to notice a remarkable improvement in my memory and a reduction in tiredness throughout the day.

I remember taking my final half tablet on the 5th December 1990 – my birthday. No present will ever match its value. After a further three check-up appointments, I was finally told I no longer needed to visit the clinic. My treatment had been a total success.

It took me some time to believe that my seizures had truly ceased. My life was getting better by the day. One thing I’d always had an ambition to try was mountain walking and it wasn’t long before I became a member of the local walker’s group. I am now happily married with a house of my own and a full time permanent job. In September 1998, my wife Mandy gave birth to our first child, Hannah.

“What more could I possibly wish for?”

 

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