Epilepsy treatments spark lasting friendship between two women
It’s believed more than 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy. The brain disorder can cause hundreds of seizures a day – turning patients’ lives upside down. But two young women say epilepsy created a friendship that will last a lifetime.
Kellee Chavis and Heather Brookins had no idea they had so much in common.
“When I was little, in elementary school, I had problems with reading and writing," Chavis shared.
“I was having some learning disabilities,” Brookins shared.
Both suffered from memory loss and dizzy spells for years. It turns out they were having hundreds of seizures a day.
“If somebody tends to have any unprovoked seizures, more than twice in their lifetime, that meets the definition of epilepsy,” explained Hae Won Shin, MD, associate professor in the department of neurology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
The two young women met in the doctor’s office.
Brookins said, “We just always kind of sat beside each other. Our appointments were nearly always around the same time.”
They talked about living with epilepsy and the blackouts they both experienced.
“I don’t remember my sister’s wedding; I don’t remember family occasions,” Chavis recalls.
“I was very self-conscious, depressed,” Brookins stated.
Both underwent brain surgery and tried dozens of anti-seizure medications. When nothing worked, they found the responsive neurostimulation device — or RNS — by a company called Neurospace.
“It monitors the brain activity, looks for seizure activity, and if it detects that it delivers an electrical stimulus,” said Eldad Hadar, MD, professor of neurosurgery at the UNC School of Medicine.
That stimulus blocks or reduces the severity of the seizure. Chavis and Brookins both had devices implanted.
“I’ve officially been seizure-free for a year now,” Chavis exclaimed.
“It’s literally given me my life back,” Brookins smiled.
Now Brookins has the energy to take care of her 6-year-old son, Jackson. And Chavis just graduated with a degree in healthcare management.
Both women continue to benefit from new technology. Neuropace recently increased the battery life of their RNS device from four to eight years.
Despite their busy lives, the two still text each other every day.
Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Dave Harrison, Editor; and Roque Correa, Videographer.