Surgery Offers Patients with Epilepsy a Second Chance at Life

Hattiesburg Clinic Digest, 2009

Kristin Lape entered her senior year at Mississippi State University with great expectations for the future – graduation, embarking on an exciting new career, and undergoing an operation that could change her life.  Lape, like over 3 million other Americans, suffered from epilepsy.

Lape experienced her first epileptic seizure at two years old.  By her senior year of college, she was having several episodes a day.  She was taking the usual round of anti-seizure medications; however, they were doing little to adequately control the disorder.  Lape’s mother voiced her concerns to a friend who in turn referred her to the neurology department at Hattiesburg Clinic.  Lape and her mother made an appointment to meet with Hattiesburg Clinic neurologist Dr. Wendell Helveston.

 “I still remember the day I walked into Dr. Helveston’s office,” recalls Lape.  “I was expecting him to either change my medication or increase my medication.  Dr. Helveston had been studying my medical files.  He said, ‘Kristin, we’ve got to get you fixed.  You are about to graduate from college.  You’re about to go out into the real world.  I think you would be a good candidate for surgery.’”  Dr. Helveston’s news came as both a shock and as a relief.  “I cried,” she says.  “I never had a doctor who pursued helping me that much.”    

Lape was admitted to Forrest General Hospital for preliminary testing.  With the use of an electroencephalogram (EEG), her electrical brain activity was measured to pinpoint the exact location in the brain that the seizures were originating from.  She was then referred to University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for surgery.  Lape was wheeled into the operating room in December of 2006.  She has been seizure free for over a year. 

Before undergoing surgery, Lape describes herself as feeling, “tired a lot, lethargic, and drained.”  Since her surgery she has more energy and is able to be more active than she ever through she would.  Says Lape, “I recently went to a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert and it was amazing. Without my surgery, I know for a fact I would have had seizures within the first song. The light show was amazing, and it was great for me to be able to experience a concert without worrying about having seizures and not enjoy it.  That was a true test of the results of my surgery.”

Lape graduated from Mississippi State in May 2007 and is currently working as a graphic designer for Mojoloco, LLC in Brandon, Miss.  Although epilepsy no longer affects her life the way it used to, she has not forgotten that millions of Americans still live with the disorder everyday.  Last fall, Lape and the staff of Mojoloco volunteered their talents to help out the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi with their annual fundraising event.  They produced all the collateral materials and organized a team to walk the streets of Jackson on the day of the event to promote the fundraiser.  Lape received special recognition by the Epilepsy Foundation for her work.  Plans are underway to volunteer for this year’s annual event.  “It’s very rewarding to know that I am able to make a difference in people’s lives that are struggling with epilepsy just as I did,” Lape adds.  “I feel blessed to be able to make people aware that you don’t have to live with it for the rest of your life. Instead of being treated, it can be cured.”