Former Charlottesville, Virginia resident Dave Schneider was enjoying retirement after 30 years in healthcare roles. He had plenty of time to spend with his two grandchildren, and he had taken up painting as a hobby. In 2018, his wife, Martha, had taken a dream job in healthcare leadership and was dividing her time between Northern Virginia and Charlottesville. Everything was wonderful – until the night of March 15, 2019, when out of nowhere, Dave experienced a grand mal seizure.

After the seizure, Dave and Martha relocated to Northern Virginia full time. Since Dave now lived in Northern Virginia, Dave chose Inova for his healthcare. He and Martha met with Mohankumar Kurukumbi, MD, epileptologist and Medical Director of the Epilepsy Center located within Inova Neurosciences.

“Epilepsy is a challenging condition in many ways – it is both over diagnosed, with people on epilepsy medications who don’t actually have epilepsy, and underdiagnosed, with patients on therapies that aren’t best for them,” Dr. Kurukumbi said. “We encourage everyone who is still experiencing seizures despite being on medication prescribed by a neurologist to schedule an appointment with an epilepsy specialist.”

Next, Dr. Kurukumbi scheduled Dave for a stay at Inova Neurosciences’ dedicated Epilepsy Monitoring Unit beginning on April 25. Inova Neurosciences’ Epilepsy Center is accredited as a level 4 center – the highest possible designation – by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. The center provides comprehensive epilepsy care, including the inpatient Epilepsy Monitoring Unit and a full range of epilepsy-related, surgical capabilities.

While he was waiting for his scheduled admission to the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, Dave’s symptoms continued to get worse. The previously unflappable Dave had begun to experience physical symptoms that were scary to him and his wife. On April 18, Dave was admitted to the neurology floor at Inova Fairfax Hospital for observation.

“The way Dave was describing his seizures concerned me, because sometimes seizures can mimic, or be related to, cardiac issues,” said Dave’s admitting nurse, Eileen Parry, RN. “I want to treat all of my patients as if they are my own family members. In Dave’s case, that meant advocating for him to be put on extra heart monitoring.”

Eileen’s decision to push for cardiac monitoring – and to advocate for a cardiology consult the next day – was the right one. Dave’s EKG was abnormal.

On April 22, Dave was transferred into the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. There, under close monitoring, Dr. Kurukumbi first took Dave off his current medications. Then, he collected data on the seizure activity in Dave’s brain and used it to optimize his medications.

“The nursing staff and all the people at Inova were just amazing,” Dave, who is a former nurse, said. “I know what it takes for a hospital system to be really good, and everyone I came into contact with was incredibly good.”

It’s important to have epilepsy medication that is tailored to the specific type of seizure the person is having. Dave is a good example of the difference it can make to a person’s quality of life.

“Even though Dave was on seizure medication, he was still having small seizures, which were causing his symptoms,” Dr. Kurukumbi said. “We optimized his medication, and he is doing great now. That’s what we do for patients every day in our Epilepsy Center, a vital part of Inova Neurosciences.”

After discharge from the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, Dave and Martha followed up with cardiology, and he did have a 90-percent blockage in one of his coronary arteries. He had a cardiac catheterization procedure in May, during which a stent was placed to reopen the artery.

Dave said, “My nurse, Eileen, saved my life. She was the one who advocated for all of the cardiac tests and pushed the treatment forward, in addition to dealing with neurological issues I was having. She walks on water, as far as I’m concerned.”

Inspired to give back after his healthcare experiences, Dave drew on his talent for painting. He created three large murals to say thank you to the clinical team at Inova. Today, these murals are hanging in Inova Fairfax Hospital. He also gave individual paintings to several of the people who cared for him, as a gesture of thanks.

For more information about Inova Neurosciences’ Epilepsy Center, visit https://www.inova.org/our-services/inova-epilepsy-center, or call 703.845.1500.

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