Ask the parent of just about any teenager—are there times when you talk to your child and wonder if they’re “in there?” Becca’s mom Heidi used to wonder about that daily. But it had nothing to do her daughter being fourteen years old. This had been going on since Becca was a toddler, soon after she suffered a stroke. “She was so sick,” Heidi recalls, “they told me to start planning her funeral.”
But Becca had other plans. She survived, though Heidi says there have been “issues”— physical limitations like left-side weakness and plenty of behavioral problems; sometimes serious, sometimes simply staring into space.
There was one thing they could never figure out. “From the time she could talk,” Heidi recalls, “she’d say—I have owwies on the top of my mouth. We went from doctor to doctor, but no one had a clue what she was talking about.”
Until last year, when doctors diagnosed Becca with silent seizures.
“They don’t know when I’m having a seizure,” Becca explains. “I go in a staring mode and they don’t even know. They say, ‘Rebecca—are you OK?’ and I can talk through them sometimes.”
“Even on five or six medications, she would have up to six seizures a day, just about every day,” says Heidi. “They’d wake her up in the middle of the night sometimes.
“What can you do but sit there with her until it’s over?”
There are other options, as Becca and her mom learned when one of many referrals led them to All Children’s Hospital and Dr. Parrish Winesett. A pediatric epileptologist, he had Becca admitted to the hospital’s seizure monitoring unit for observation. From those test results and reviews of MRI scans, Winesett identified what he believed to be the source of the problem—a vascular malformation in Becca’s right temporal lobe. It needed to come out. Brain surgery. After the initial shock, Heidi remembers saying— “tell me what it involves. At this point, I would think most parents are willing to do almost anything to help this child. And that’s where we were.”
Becca was all for it. “I don’t want to have seizures anymore,” she explains, “because I don’t want to live my life that way, wondering if people are thinking—‘what is going on with her?’”
The surgery was performed last November with Dr. Winesett monitoring Becca as surgeon Dr. Arthur Marlin removed the mass. It was a first for All Children’s Hospital, though Dr. Marlin has performed the operation many times before. For Becca, now four months postsurgery and seizure free, “it’s just a miracle what God has done for me.”
But she says, there are still worries. “The scariest thing is, I worry about every day if I’m going to have a seizure. Because I don’t want to live my life like that again. I couldn’t really focus a lot in school as much. Now I focus a little more.
“Every day is getting a little bit easier, because I thought this was going to be the end of my life—but it was just the beginning.”
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