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New epilepsy unit at Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) helps patient control seizures

November 12, 2019

Pat Bradford (blonde, center) is surrounded by her family during a recent trip to Colorado.

A seizure doesn’t always present with symptoms of uncontrollable jerking movements. For Pat Bradford, 59, of Wheeling, it was a series of quiet, “spacing out” spells that she didn’t seem to notice.

“When you think of seizures, you picture people falling on the floor or shaking or convulsing and that wasn’t me,” Pat says.

Her husband Rick and her coworkers noticed she’d sometimes stare blankly and not respond when her name was called. And Pat experienced three car accidents within a year.

“One minute I’d be doing something and the next I was sitting down,” Pat says. “I didn’t know something had happened in between.”

She was prescribed medication by NCH Medical Group Neurologist Daniel Cacioppo, M.D. and the dosage was increased. When things didn’t seem to be improving and she continued to have seizures, he recommended she check into NCH’s new epilepsy unit for observation. She stayed three nights in late July, shortly after the unit opened. She described a “hotel-like” room where Rick was able to stay with her for support.

“They wanted to observe at least two seizures,” Pat explains. “Although it was very scary, it was all handled very well; we came to a conclusion about what was happening and things have worked out.”

How it works

NCH Medical Group Neurologist Saju Abraham, M.D., who oversees the unit, says patients can stay for up to five days. The first step involves going off all medication because the goal is for neurologists to be able to observe seizures and record information about them.

Patients are made to feel comfortable and they spend their time connected to an electroencephalogram (EEG), a test which detects problems related to electrical activity of the brain. There’s a camera attached to the machine which captures audio and video so that when a seizure occurs, the nursing staff can immediately notify a neurologist who can observe. Dr. Abraham was able to view Pat on his laptop remotely and watch Pat’s seizure in real-time while studying the EEG.
Seizures, he says, can occur in any lobe of the brain as well as either on the left or right side. The EEG captures the information and can detect the location, which helps the neurologist determine the best, personalized treatment plan.

“We captured several seizures coming from the left temporal lobe,” Dr. Abraham says. “Pat then was able to undergo more detailed imaging to see if there were any subtle malformations in the brain that might warrant surgery. Pat does not need surgery right now. She has done great with a different medication that is right for her.”

Back to normal

Despite having driving restrictions, Pat’s life is back to normal. She returned to work – Rick is retired so he can drive her there and back – and to date she hasn’t experienced any new seizures. She’s back to baking cookies for coworkers, making dinner each night after work, watching sports and doing needlepoint. Her adult children feel she’s back to her old self.

Having worked in healthcare as a medical technologist, Pat has been in a lot of city hospital systems. She says she appreciates and prefers the personalized attention and expert care she received at NCH, where she and her family have received their health care for three decades.

“Everyone I encountered was very understanding, nice, supportive, and I can’t say enough good things about my experience,” Pat says. “I was glad Dr. Abraham was proactive in getting to the bottom of it, changing the medication and trying new things. I’ve been fine ever since.”

After being discharged, Pat recalls receiving a follow-up phone call from Dr. Abraham.

“He called me a few days later and asked me if I was OK,” Pat says. “He wanted to know if I had any side effects from the medication. It was really nice of him to check in with me, and I can’t express enough how grateful I am. I felt everybody was very concerned and helpful and that has always been my experience at NCH.”

NCH is recognized by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers as a Level 3 Center. It is one of only six hospitals in the state to have the accreditation.

“This means we have a comprehensive team approach to the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy,” says NCH Director of Neurosciences Shaun O’Leary, M.D., PhD. “In our new unit, our neurologists work with other specialists to assess patients and provide personalized treatment options so that our patients can control their seizures in the best way possible.”

NCH treats a full range of neurological conditions in the Neuroscience Center. To schedule an appointment with a neurologist, call 847-725-8401.