VNS appointment today, MRI scan tonight

Just got confirmation that I’ll be taking Alexandria to a neurologist appointment this afternoon, so they can turn off her VNS device in preparation for her MRI later tonight.

The MRI will be a standard 30-minute brain scan, and will allow the doctors to see what has happened since September, when her last MRI showed a spherical-shaped mass in the left hemisphere of her brain.

We are very excited about this MRI especially because:

  1. We’ve felt led by God to pray for supernatural healing over the last month, and …
  2. The recent SPECT scan results showed the doctors almost the opposite of what they were expecting to see …

Thank you for your support and encouragement as our family continues to simply walk the road that God lays out in front of us.
… and we’ll update this site when we hear more! :)

“Seizure Report”, by Alex Corley

Alex Corley

Here’s a fairly detailed report that Alexandria just finished writing from her perspective, for a school project that was due today. The information is both informative and timely, with some of her history and what’s coming up next too!
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Seizure Report

by Alex Corley

A seizure is a sudden burst of electricity in your brain, very much like a tiny bolt of lightning. This electricity is a signal that causes your body to feel different, or makes your body do things that you can’t control. Sometimes the electrical signal only reaches part of your brain. Then a part of your body, like an arm or a leg, may move on its own. If the signal goes all through your brain, you may shake all over or may fall asleep for a short time. The whole seizure is usually very short—only a few seconds or perhaps a minute or two.

Imagine a room full of mouse traps. Instead of putting cheese in the mouse trap, we put a ping-pong ball on each trap, and there’s not a bit of space in this entire floor where I haven’t put a mouse trap and a ping-pong ball. What if I just throw one ping-pong ball into that room? What’s going to happen? It’s going to hit one, which will bounce, hit two, which will hit four, which will hit eight and before long, the entire room has got ping-pong balls flying in it. That’s a little bit like what happens with a seizure. Irritation in the brain may start at one area of the brain and then spread until it eventually takes over the entire brain.

Doctors aren’t always sure why kids have seizures. Some kids have seizures by hurting their head in a bad accident. Others have an illness that injures their brain. For most kids the doctors cannot find out what causes their seizures.  My seizures started when I was one year old.  The doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing my seizures.  But recently they found a mass in my brain about the size of a ping-pong ball right here (point to my brain).

There are two main types of seizures.  The most common type is called a generalized seizure.  Someone who has generalized seizures may fall and black out.  The muscles will twitch and jerk.  They usually last for several minutes.  People usually feel tired and sleepy when it is over. The second kind of seizure is called a partial or focal seizure.  It involves a small part of the brain and may cause someone to just stop and stare.  My seizures are like the generalized seizures.  I fall to the ground and black out.  It lasts for about a minute, and when I wake up, I feel very tired, and very hungry too!  The doctors don’t know why if feel hungry after my seizures.

The good news is that most seizures can be controlled with medicine.  People can do most activities as anyone else.  For some people, medicine does not work.  These people may decide to have brain surgery.  Doctors can sometimes remove or repair the part of the brain that sends mixed up signals.  In two weeks I am going to the hospital for some tests. They will decide if I am going to have brain surgery to stop my seizures.  The vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) is another type of treatment.  The VNS battery is a little larger than a quarter.  The doctor puts the battery under the skin in the chest.  The battery sends a signal to the brain through the vagus nerve, a nerve in the neck.  The vagus nerve is one of the twelve cranial nerves in the human body; it is like a computer system for the brain.  The signal from the VNS can help stop or prevent seizures.  When I was in the hospital a couple months ago, they replaced my VNS, and it has helped me.

People who take seizure medicines have to take them every day, or even many times a day. Imagine that the medicine is putting the seizures to sleep inside your brain, but they don’t go away. If you forget to take your medicine, the seizures might wake up. Even if you don’t have any seizures for a long time, you still have a seizure disorder, so the seizures probably would wake up again if you stopped taking the medicine.  (show my medicine) This is all of the medicine that I take every day.

Seizures can be very scary. If you wake up after a seizure and everyone around you is worried, you may worry too. But the truth is that kids almost never die from having a seizure. Most seizures last just a few minutes and kids are back to normal after a short rest. Last week I went to Wal-Mart with my mom.  We were trying to find a card for my great-grandmommy for her birthday.  I was looking for a card in a different isle than my mom, and suddenly, I had a seizure and fell to the ground and hit my head.  It made a huge bump.  After I woke up, I heard everyone saying, “Help! Please help!”  A lady called for help and my mommy came around the corner to me.  People were scared and they were calling 911.  I was OK once my mom was with me, and I didn’t have to go to the hospital.  Usually I can feel my seizures coming on, but for the past few days, I haven’t had much of a warning.

Most kids with seizures can ride their bicycles. They just have to be sure that they always wear a bike helmet and stay away from dangerous places.  They can also do lots of other sports. They just need to be a little more careful than other kids. Some people think that kids with seizures shouldn’t go swimming because they might have a seizure in the water and drown. But if you don’t have too many seizures it should be OK for to go swimming in a pool if an adult is watching closely.

I don’t really like having seizures.  But I’m so glad that I have good friends that love me anyway.  I’m glad that God keeps me safe.  I hope one day I won’t have any more seizures.

Doctor visit today

Alexandria, in her class at school

Alexandria, in her class at school

Well, it’s quite a bit more than just a “doctor visit,” but you can’t really title a blog entry “Pediatric neurosurgeon visit today.” :)  So anyway, that’s what’s going on today. Alexandria will miss some school in favor of a very important and exciting appointment with Dr. Pattisipu!

It’s crazy to think that it’s already been two weeks since Alex was released from the hospital. But her incisions are completely healed, so that makes sense.

Overall, Alex is doing very well. Although she does still has a seizure or two each day (and more at night), she has adjusted well to both the new VNS implant and the higher dosage of anti-seizure medication. We’re still working with Alex to encourage up to twelve hours of sleep each night — an important factor in how many seizures she’ll have in the day-time — but at least the seizures are fairly manageable right now.

Another relief for us is that we’ve received full confirmation that Alex’s continuing visits with the best pediatric neurologist and pediatric neurosurgeon, although outside her insurance coverage network, are going to be covered 100% by her health insurance! This is not only a relief when thinking of Alex’s last hospital stay that probably tallied more than $100,000 — but it also allows us to move forward with regular visits starting this week!

After Alex’s visit with Dr. Pattisipu today, she has an appointment tomorrow with Dr. Davis, her pediatric neurologist. And from those two appointments, we hope to have a better idea of when future scans and brain-mapping procedures will be scheduled.

My hope is that through the new studies that Dr. Davis and Dr. Pattisipu are about to initiate, we can not only find a cure for Alexandria’s seizures, but also be an encouragement and help to many other families of children who suffer from similar seizure activity.

Surgery Update

It’s so good to be in the calm AFTER the storm right now.

VNS implant

VNS implant

Alex is resting comfortably in her hospital bed after a successful surgery and is getting used to the incisions and the brand new VNS device just under the skin near her shoulder/neck.

Dr. Pattisapu

Dr. Pattisapu

Dr. Pattisapu was very encouraging with Kristi and I after the surgery and explained everything from what the problem was with the VNS implant to what options we can start thinking about for future studies and “brain mapping” to determine if brain surgery will be an option for Alex in weeks and months to come.

But the plan for now is to keep Alexandria at Arnold-Palmer Hospital for one more day to make sure that the new medicine dosages and the new VNS implant are keeping her seizures fairly stable. Then we are hoping to be released from the hospital sometime tomorrow. We can’t wait! :)

VNS Surgery Today

Alex & Kristi, just before Alex went in for surgery

Alex & Kristi, just before Alex went in for surgery

Kristi and I just sent Alex into the OR with her entourage of doctors, nurses, anesthesiologist, and VNS representative.

We’re happy that Dr. Pattisapu will be doing the surgery to repair Alex’s VNS implant and wiring that has been attached to her vagus nerve for the past 3 1/2 years. And while this is a fairly simple surgery, it does require a neurosurgeon. Because the vagus nerve is the main communication between the brain and all the vital organs.

Please pray with us that everything goes well with this surgery and the VNS device continues to help Alexandria with her seizures.

Thoughts from a father

(posted on Tuesday, Sept. 15th, 2009)

Lots of thoughts go through a father’s mind when his daughter is in the hospital. Especially when that daughter is being admitted because of seizures and the results of an MRI that showed abnormalities in her brain.

Here's all three kids on their first day of school -- and Drew's shirt says it all! :)

Here's Drew, Kaitlyn and Alex on their first day of school -- and Drew's shirt is a bit of encouragement even for today! :)

After taking over from Kristi yesterday and sleeping in the hospital room with Alexandria last night, I was grateful for Kristi’s return today to help Alex cope with three servings of the anti-seizure medication Ativan — a nasty drug that turned my precious Alex into one of those mental psych ward patients who can’t even move their lips right to make the the words and sentences they are thinking in their head. So frustrating! And when she finally started coming out of that, she had so many mood swings and strong emotions that are totally unlike her. But it all made sense as she repeated over and over that she didn’t want to be in the prison that she was feeling — knowing full well what she wanting to think, only to not be able to express it — knowing that she wanted to watch TV, only to be discouraged by the wobbly double-vision — and wanting and trying to sit up, only to be confronted with dizziness that in her words “pushed her back down into the bed.”

Kristi and I have been taking turns caring for Alex at the hospital in between managing the schedules and well-being of Dew and Kaitlyn. And tonight we were finally able to be all together in Alex’s room … and not only us! Alex’s good friend Aubrey and her mom Vickie and our friends John and Sarah were all there to share supper together along with lots of smiles and encouragement. And amazingly, we all fit nicely into the oversized room with which we have been blessed.

So we’re through a day and a half in the hospital, and the doctors are thinking Alex will be in until Friday (another three days). They will be roughly doubling the anti-seizure medication dosage that she’s been on for about seven years. And then if her seizures are under control by Thursday, they’ll do a minor surgery to repair the VNS device that is now malfunctioning. And after all of that, the pediatric neurologists and a neurosurgeon will continue to study and consider what needs to be done about the strange shape that last night’s MRI showed to be in the left hemisphere of Alexandria’s brain.

Today we were able to provide the neuro-experts with a CD of images from an MRI that was performed four years ago … so we’re hoping that comparing the old MRI with the new MRI will give the doctors some clear insight into what is happening and what might need to be done.

So that’s what’s been happening! Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement — we are part of such a huge support group! And this makes such a huge difference to me personally. Because somehow, even in the heart of a father who has cried for my daughter a lot over the past few days — there is now a peace that is deeper than my abilities and even those of the doctors. Because I know it is all going to work out.

Alex’s concern for her best friend

(posted by Kristi Corley)

Alex & EllieThis year has been a bit rough in one area. Alex’s best friend Ellie Skees has been begun a health battle of her own, being diagnosed with Stage-4 Neuroblastoma Cancer. Ellie’s family charts her progress daily in her blog, www.ellieskees.blogspot.com, so please pray for Ellie and her family. Ellie’s mom, Sarah, is one of my very good friends.

We’ve always known that the struggles that Alex has gone through would one day be used for others. Little did we know that already at the age of 7, Alex would be sharing her health experiences — and that it would be with her very best friend.

Alex has been to the hospital a number of times to visit Ellie, and each time has never been scared of the wires, tubes, machines, etc. because they are all too familiar to Alex. Many times Alex would point to Ellie’s IV and say things like, “ya, those things can bother ya, can’t they.” And one day, right as Alex arrived into Ellie’s room, Ellie immediately perked up and said, “Alex!!!! We have the exact same surgery spot!” (pointing to the spot where they placed the port site for Ellie’s chemo, which was the same spot where Alex had her VNS implanted).

One day I received a phone call from Sarah, asking if Alex could come to visit Ellie. Sarah had just explained to Ellie that because of her chemo, that she would be losing her hair. And as you would expect, Ellie was quite upset, and was concerned that people would laugh and make fun of her. Sarah began to compare Ellie to Alex and her health issues, asking if Alex is laughed at or made fun of because of her seizures and also her hand deformity.  Ellie immediately said “NO!! We love Alex and we never make fun of her!” So Sarah explained that her friends would also love her and never make fun of her.Alex's haircut

I explained the whole hair loss to Alex and she immediately came up with some ideas to help Ellie feel better, wanting to go out and buy matching hats, and then came the idea to cut her own hair so that she could give some of her hair to Ellie…

So about 2 weeks ago, Alex had a special hair-cutting appointment and cut off about 7 inches of her hair. And now one of Ellie’s friends is planning on attatching Alex’s hair to a little hat, to have the hair extentions coming out from the bottom of the hat!!! We are very proud of Alex and the compassion she has in her heart.

VNS therapy surgery as an option for Alex

VNS implant

This Monday (Feb. 6th) Alex has an appointment with a neurosurgeon to weigh benefits and risks — and to prepare for the surgical procedure — of her having a VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulator) device implanted under the skin. Alex’s seizure disorder just hasn’t been under control for a while now. So after exploring a number of different medical and homeopathic avenues, VNS therapy (www.vnstherapy.com) appears to be the next best thing for her.