Friday, April 06, 2007

Seizures free, he now enjoys life to the fullest!

James Huffman's body has never been his own.

Decades ago, a portion of his brain surrendered to the evils of epilepsy. The culprit: an unexplained clump of cells on the left side of his brain.

James, 44, endured countless seizures. An indescribable feeling he called "the aura" often came before a seizure. Seconds later, he grabbed his head. Fell. Spun around. Lost control.

It happened at home with his sons Matthew, 7, and Nathan, 2. At Wal-Mart, where he worked. Even while driving.

Then, he had brain mapping surgery last July.

He hasn't had a seizure in eight months.

Even so, an uncertainty remains.

* * *

James' first seizure was in 1973, at an aunt's house in Michigan.

His family watched the boy spin around in the kitchen, his eyes rolling into the back of his head as he convulsed on the floor. At first, his mother thought he was joking around. Then she called 911.
Doctors were unsure what was wrong.

Without a diagnosis, James got used to years of explaining that sometimes, his body worked independently from his mind.

Friends and family grew accustomed to the precursor to James' seizures: he would grab his head with his left hand. Then, he would spin around, knocking things over. They learned not to hold him down.
If he was outdoors, they protected his head, shaded him from the sun.

His body showed no mercy. It didn't matter where he was.

About 8 a.m. March 24, 2005, while driving home from work on U.S. 19, James had a seizure.
His blue Mitsubishi Eclipse spun counterclockwise and crossed eight lanes of traffic. Miraculously, no one was hurt.

A few months later, James had 40 seizures in a single day. Doctors said he had a stroke. But an MRI by James' neurologist found something odd: a cluster of nerve cells in his brain that shouldn't be there.

There had been no stroke. Epilepsy caused the scores of seizures.

Hope came in the form of brain mapping, a process in which doctors use a grid to locate the bad cell clump, cut open his head and remove it.

After a 12-day stay at Bayfront last July, James emerged a new man.

Doctors had removed 85 percent of the bad cell clump. But there was a portion they couldn't reach.
"About 15 percent is still there," said Erasmo Passaro, a neurologist at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. "We have to wait and see how he does. ... Once he goes two years, that's a sign he will continue to remain seizure-free."

James was antsy during his eight-week recuperation period. He wondered if the surgery worked. And he longed to do something other than watch TV and sleep. He wanted to mow the lawn, go to work.

"I didn't like not being able to get up and do things," he said. "I had to pay a guy to mow the lawn."
James paused, swelling with pride.

"I've never done that."

* * *

Each day without a seizure is a triumph for James, but he wonders what the next day will bring.
"I haven't gone this long without a seizure since I was 11," he said. "It's like you keep waiting for the other shoe to fall, but it's not going to."

Any minute, his wife, Jennifer, expects him to call and say he had a seizure and needs a ride home. His actions inadvertently make her nervous.

"It's weird not watching him every second," she said. "One time, he was staring this blank stare. I said, 'Are you okay?' It's weird not having to plan everything around how he's doing."

James' mother, Dana, recently moved from Michigan to Hudson to be closer to her son. She drives him to work in his blue car. On a calendar in her apartment, she keeps track of the weeks since his last seizure. So far, it's been 35.

"We still have that in the back of our minds," Dana said. "It's like sometimes, if he does a certain movement, your heart skips. This morning, taking him to work, his eyes itched, so the hands go to the eyes. ... There's just this fear."

* * *

As a precaution, James sees a doctor every few months. He takes three medications daily.
More than anything, James wants to drive his car. But his license was medically suspended after the car accident. He won't get it back until July, one year after his surgery.

"I don't like to look at it the car," he said. "I'm too tempted to take it around the block."

For James, every second counts. Another seizure could be around the corner. He braces himself, hoping to leave his old life behind.

"I'm glad I'm not going through this anymore," he said. "It would be hard to go through all this and then have one."

He's also gotten used to answering the same question over and over again from his co-workers:
"Have you had one yet?' "


Post a Comment

<< Home