Friday, March 30, 2007

Teenager shares her life story dealing with seizures

BRIDGEWATER -- Alyssa Brandle's last visit to Walt Disney World was when she was 6 years old, a time when seizures -- often brought on by excitement -- were a daily fear for her and her family.
Brandle seized as she gripped the ladder of the hotel pool. She froze, and after a few frightening moments, she climbed with her brother, Scott Brandle Jr., to safety.

This week, the now-14-year-old girl from the Martinsville section of the township will return to Walt Disney World as a Children's Miracle Network poster child, representing New Jersey with a message of hope and the good that comes from the organization's support of hospitals.

Doctors originally thought Brandle's seizures were caused by a cyst on her brain they found when she was 18 months old. When she turned 6, the cyst burst and the seizures grew more frequent -- despite trying four different medications.

"It made me feel different," Brandle said about the seizures. "Every time I made a new friend, I'd have to explain it. I'd have to explain it again and again. It was annoying."

The seizures would happen daily -- taking hold at birthday parties and every Christmas morning, said her mother and father, Teresa and Scott Brandle.

In 2004, doctors determined her only chance of ending the seizures was surgery -- a risky procedure because surgeons would have to operate on an area of the brain controlling language and peripheral vision.

During the 10-hour surgery at The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, a surgeon removed dead brain tissue and found a golf ball-sized tumor that had been hidden underneath.

The tumor was removed, and Brandle has been free of seizures ever since. The Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School student is now a swimmer for the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center's team and sprinter on her school's track team.

"Don't give up hope. I didn't let life get me down," Brandle said about her message, serving as a Children's Miracle Network ambassador for the next year.

Alyssa leaves today for Washington, D.C., for a meeting with 49 other Children's Miracle Network state representatives and first lady Laura Bush -- and possibly President Bush -- at the White House. Then, she and her family will spend a few days at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., with the other Children's Miracle Network ambassadors.

Brandle will appear at events throughout the state on behalf of the Children's Miracle Network. Each year, the organization gives more than $1 million to hospitals in the state.

Last year's representative was Lauren Choi, a Flemington girl who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2004. Doctors had told her that she wouldn't be able to walk again, but after six months at Children's Specialized Hospital in Mountainside and now weekly therapy sessions, Lauren is walking again.

Kara L. Richardson can be reached at (908) 707-3186 or


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