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Living with epilepsy

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Buffalo: Living with epilepsy
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Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes seizures. In today’s Healthy Living, Marcie Fraser looks at how epilepsy can affect a person’s life.


Epilepsy affects one out of every 200 people. It's a neurological condition that can put a paralyzing hold on a person’s life.

"I kept felt as if I was dying and I kept telling the doctor about it and the doctors would say, 'oh these are just growing pains,’” said Barb Strait, an epilepsy patient.

It wasn't growing pains. In fact as she got older, what she had got worse. Epileptic seizures.

"I had several in the shower, cracking my head on the tile, I was lucky to be alive," said Strait.

It began around age 11, after suffering from rheumatic fever. Doctors believe she suffered slight damage to a small part of her brain. Some experts refer to seizures as electrical misfirings.

"Any electrical misfiring can cause loss of awareness, loss of consciousness if you will, abnormal movements," said Dr. Anthony Ritaccio, Albany Medical Center neurologist.

You can be born with a seizure disorder for example, cerebral palsy, or it can be caused by an infection like meningitis or a brain injury.

As she got older, her seizures got worse."

"I broke my neck. I broke my back, my ribs five or six at a time quite a few times," said Strait.

When her daughter was born, her family feared she'd have a seizure and drop the baby, but that never happened.

"I'd always would lay the baby on the couch or on the floor, for some reason, God protected me," said Strait.

For five decades, Barb’s life has been on hold. She could never get a license, and fearing a seizure on the job, she was a liability and no one would hire her. Anti-seizure medications never helped.

Nearly half of the patients like Barbara are called drug resistant, meaning drugs don't help them with their seizures. But there is another option. The option is surgery, brain surgery.

The surgery is called a partial temporal lobectomy, where the part of the brain causing the seizures is removed. While the surgery does have many risks, Barb thought the risks were worth it.


In the next Healthy Living report, Marcie Fraser has more on how Barb is doing.

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