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June 19, 2018

New Treatment Helps Chris White Find New Life, Seizure-Free

By In the Loop

After suffering a stroke at birth that turned into a lifelong battle against epileptic seizures, Chris White feared he may never be able to experience the parts of life that many of us take for granted. But that all changed after he came to Mayo Clinic.

Chris White had dealt with epileptic seizures since birth and feared he would never experience the parts of life many of us take for granted. That changed after he came to Mayo Clinic.  


All of the pieces were in place. Chris White was ready for what would be one of the biggest days of his life. He and his girlfriend, Tina, sat down at a table at the Boulder Tap House in Mason City, Iowa, where Chris worked. As Iowa's Mitchell County Press News tells it, Chris' manager began playing a few songs on the jukebox, and Chris' co-workers began inconspicuously making their way to where Chris and Tina were seated. As the last song ended, Chris did what everyone had gathered to see. He asked Tina to marry him.

It was a moment Chris once feared might never happen because of a lifelong battle with epilepsy. "There's a constant fear of what's going to happen today," Chris tells the Mayo Clinic News Network.

He'd tried numerous medications without success. Then he found a care team at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus that came up with an innovative and highly personalized plan of attack for him.

The team, led by neurologist Gregory Worrell, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric neurologist Matt Stead, M.D., Ph.D., and neurosurgeon Jamie Van Gompel, M.D., began by pinpointing exactly where Chris' seizures were originating from. That involved putting a series of electrodes directly in the brain. "It took a long time to figure out exactly where the seizure was coming from," Dr. Van Gompel says. "And it turns out it was coming from an area just below speech in the insula."

That discovery was good and bad. Good because it gave them a specific area of focus, but bad because it meant they couldn't perform standard treatment. "For medically refractory epilepsy, the standard of care is brain resection," Dr. Stead says. "Resection," as one might guess, means "cutting out the area of the brain where the seizures originate." Since Chris' seizures were coming from an area of his brain responsible for controlling many important functions, his care team considered that approach too risky.

So they came up with a Plan B. It was a plan that had been used on a limited number of epilepsy patients who, like Chris, were not responding to common epilepsy medications — a high-tech form of continuous brain stimulation that the News Network reports had been developed and approved for treating conditions such as chronic pain and Parkinson's disease. "We continuously deliver relatively low-amplitude, low-frequency pulses to the regions of the brain that are causing the seizures," Dr. Stead says.

For Chris, the results were not only immediate, but life-changing. "I've been able to become employed full time, with benefits," he says. "I'm able to be anywhere. I can think of having a family."

Today he's enjoying thoughts like those with Tina, now his wife, by his side. And enjoying being able to think beyond the next seizure. "Mayo probably has saved my life," Chris says.

You can read and watch more of Chris' story here. Then be sure to let us know what you think by sharing your comments below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.


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Tags: deep brain stimulation, Department of Neurology, Dr. Gregory Worrell, Dr. Jamie Van Gompel, Dr. Matt Stead, epilepsy, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, neurosurgery, Patient Stories, pediatrics

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