Medical Minute 3-9: Relieving Epilepsy

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

Six-year-old Caleb and four-year-old Simeon are "all boy." They love cars and trains. But taking care of his boys was difficult for their dad -- even dangerous -- when Victor Vanderhoof suffered unpredictable seizures.

"Basically, I would black out, and I wouldn't really know what was going on."

Medications didn't help. He even had a seizure while driving with his older son in the car. The last thing he remembers was pulling off the interstate.

"I jumped the ditch, going through the retaining wall," said Vanderhoof.

No one was hurt, but Victor was torn apart inside.

"I remember saying to God one day, just said, 'Hey, I can't deal with this anymore. I'm going to give you an option…either you take my life or you fix this problem," said Victor Vanderhoof.

Then, he found Doctor Joseph Neimat at Vanderbilt University -- who told him about a less-invasive type of surgery.

"With the surgery, about 70 percent of patients will be seizure-free or nearly seizure-free," said Dr. Neimat.

A team of doctors performed extensive scans and tests on Victor's brain and found his seizures were located in the hippocampus. They then surgically removed a small piece of tissue in that area. Here -- you can see where it was dissected.

Victor went from having three seizures a week to having none. For three years, he's been seizure-free -- with no meds. His wife even sent his doctor a letter -- writing "epilepsy stole all quality of life from Vic and eventually our entire family" and "this surgery changed this."

"For a surgeon, these are the best cases. It just makes such a difference in these patients' lives," said Joseph Neimat, M.D., Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Now, he can drive, and more importantly, be a dad without his health holding him back.

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