Saturday, December 29, 2007

Brain surgery may free 7 years old girl from seizures

Having an epileptic seizure every now and then would be bad enough. Seven-year-old Christina Mauk has them every few minutes.

Her mom, Melissa Mauk, Bonner Springs, said Christina has been having epileptic seizures of varying types and degrees of intensity since she was 5.

With medication, “we have the large ones semi-controlled,” Mauk said.

That leaves milder but still potentially dangerous attacks that Christina never goes more than half an hour without suffering, Mauk said.

The seizure symptoms range from Christina going glassy-eyed or losing the perception of color, to losing control of her body. Christina even has seizures in her sleep, Mauk says. That can be dangerous, resulting in her falling off her bed. Luckily, Christina gives a warning.

“She has this hysterical laugh she does before she goes into seizure that tells us she’s about to,” Mauk said.

The longest she goes without an attack is half an hour, Mauk said.

It’s no surprise, then, that the seizures interfere with Christina’s life in myriad ways. She’s been on nine different kinds of medication, which have lessened the seizures so that they are usually petite mal instead of grand mal seizures. The medications have affected her learning ability to the point Christina can’t spell her own name, and can only count as high as 10 without using her fingers.

She spends half of her school day at Bonner Springs Elementary in regular class and another part in special-needs class.

Mauk said Christina can interact with other people but other activities are difficult.

“Eating is really an obstacle for her,” Mauk said. “She just gets food all over her … She can still shower bathe herself,” but she has to have someone else present.

Christina had her first grand mal seizure while in Head Start, at the age of 5, Mauk said.

Mauk then bought a book to read up on epilepsy and said she found there are 25 different kinds of seizures.

Her neurologist said MRI scans showed no abnormalities of brain or skull itself, Mauk said.
Mauk said as she understands it, “you can have epilepsy, but there has to be a trigger.”

That trigger could be hereditary, Mauk said, perhaps Tourette’s Syndrome. On the other hand, she said she was told EEG readings of Christina’s brain activity had been consistent with encephalitis and viral meningitis. Mauk said she didn’t know why tests hadn’t been conducted to determine whether either of these were the cause.

There is some hope for Christina, though. A vagus-nerve stimulator, comparable to a pacemaker for a nerve located between the collarbone and the neck, may reduce the incidence of Christina’s attacks. Mauk said her doctors told her it was a 50-50 chance that it would work. She’s having the surgery at Children’s Mercy hospital to implant the device Thursday.

Mauk said the stimulator will give a tiny electrical charge every minute or 30 seconds, and Christina won’t feel it.

That uncertain hope also comes with a steep price: about $30,000. Mauk said Medicare won’t cover the cost because the operation isn’t approved for children under 12.

But, Mauk said “I’m not waiting another five years to see how bad it gets.”

To help cover that cost, several Bonner Springs businesses — Woods Liquor, Woods Gas Station, Amoco and Dari-Dine —have setup donation jars for customers’ spare change and bills.
Mauk said so far nearly $600 had been raised. Another collection was initiated by Bonner Springs High School student Anna Hutchison with a collection table at lunch in the cafeteria. She’s managed to raised more than $200 from students and staff.

Mauk, who works as a crossing guard for the school district, is grateful to everyone who donated, and to show her appreciation she took out a small ad in the Chieftain.


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