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Timothy Braun: Epilepsy

As a dedicated husband, father, and college professor, Timothy spends most of his time with his wife and son and in the classroom with his athletic training students.

However, Timothy’s life changed forever when he experienced his first grand mal seizure in 2014. Caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, he experienced a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions throughout his body. Timothy continued to suffer from frequent spells of dizziness and vision problems following his initial seizure.  

Previously a resident of Idaho, Timothy received medical care from a neurologist in his area. After a series of appointments, Timothy was officially diagnosed with right temporal lobe epilepsy. 

He then saw an epileptologist who prescribed a combination of medication for him to take to help control future partial seizures. While the medication helped to control the seizures, the side effects were very unpleasant. 

“I was fatigued all the time and experienced vision problems. I also had trouble concentrating and forming words. I felt like I could not be fully present to those around me, which was extremely frustrating.”

For the next four years following his diagnosis, Timothy continued to experience partial seizures at least once or twice a month in addition to the negative side effects from the medication.

"The care at UPMC was fantastic and I would recommend this procedure to any epilepsy patient." — Timothy

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The Path to UPMC 

The stresses of work and pandemic life had taken a toll on Timothy’s health, which caused his partial seizures to become much more frequent. This increase in frequency motivated Timothy to pursue testing to be considered a surgical candidate. 

After accepting a new job in Pittsburgh, Timothy met with UPMC neurologist Nirav Barot, MD, MPH, who works with patients in the Epilepsy Clinic and Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.

Timothy underwent a series of diagnostics tests, including a stereo-EEG procedure. The stereo-EEG involved the placement of several thin wires (electrodes) into his brain for seizure mapping to determine the seizure focus, or where the seizure was originating from. 

After this procedure, it was determined that Timothy would benefit from further surgical intervention.

The Solution

Dr. Barot recommended that Timothy undergo a resection to remove the seizure focus. As the most common type of epilepsy surgery, people often experience a 50 to 90 percent success rate for complete seizure relief after undergoing a resection. This procedure may also be effective for people who have epilepsy located in areas of the brain other than the temporal lobe, or for patients who have been told that their epilepsy is inoperable.

Dr. Barot referred Timothy to UPMC Neurosurgeon Jorge Gonzalez-Martinez, MD, PhD, FAANS. Using a combination of preoperative and intraoperative brain mapping, Dr. Gonzalez-Martinez removed Timothy’s right temporal lobe amygdala (a structure with a size and shape of an almond, in the center of the brain) to help him achieve seizure freedom. 

“The recovery process was very smooth. I spent one night in the hospital and began feeling like myself no more than a week or two weeks after surgery. If I could have gone back to work immediately, I would have – I was feeling that good!” said Timothy. 

The Results

Timothy’s surgery has made a great difference in his life, as he does not have any limitations following the resection of the seizure focus.

“I am able to apply myself much better to every facet of my life and I can undergo the typical life stressors without major symptoms occurring. My short-term memory has improved, and any medication side effects or partial seizures are much less frequent and severe.”

While Timothy continues to take medication to help control any seizure symptoms, he looks forward to the potential of being weaned off medication soon. His follow-up care includes routine visits with Dr. Gonzalez-Martinez and Dr. Barot.

“Having access to an epileptologist really made a world of difference for me and my epilepsy journey. The care at UPMC was fantastic and I would recommend this procedure to any epilepsy patient.”

Ultimately, Timothy is most grateful for the ability to once again be fully present with his family without the interference of partial seizures.

“With epilepsy, you always worry about the long-term effects for you and your family. This procedure helped promote a longer and higher quality future for my son, wife, and I.” 

This patient's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

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