Pulling the plug on children's seizures

Epilepsy affects more than 300,000 children under the age of 15


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Falling to the ground at any given moment without having control over their bodies. It's what children with atonic seizures live with every day. For some, removing part of a major organ seems to be the key to ending the dangerous cycle.

At ten months old, Cole started suffering from atonic seizures. He would wear a helmet to protect himself from the condition that causes him to fall without warning.

Eight-year-old Aliyah Walker had the seizures too. As many as six frightening episodes a day.

"Where she would just walk normally, and then she would fall," says Latasha Mckeiver, Aliyah's mom.

They were caused by an inflammatory disease, deteriorating the left side of her brain and its function.

"Over time, some of the function of the brain moved elsewhere, probably to the right side of the brain," says Philipp R. Aldana, M.D., FAAP, assistant professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics and chief of the division of pediatric neurosurgery at the University of Florida Health Science Center Jacksonville.

When no medicine helped Aliyah, there was only one option.

"I was like no, they told me they were going to have to disconnect the left side of her brain, remove it," says Latasha.

During her hemispherotomy, doctors removed the part of the brain triggering the seizures and cut off the entire left brain.

"We disconnected the fibers that go down to the spinal cord, and disconnected the fibers that go to the other side of the brain," saus Dr. Aldana said.

After surgery, Aliyah had not a single complication. While she has months of therapy ahead to strengthen and improve coordination on her right side, she's seizure-free. After a similar surgery, Cole's seizures are gone too and so is his helmet.

Without the procedure, doctors say Aliyah's severe seizures, weakness and even paralysis would have likely gotten worse. They now believe her seizures are gone for good. In time, her right brain will take over more of her left brain function, and doctors believe she'll go on to have a normal, healthy life.