Although Leila Ait Abdedaim was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 20, she’d already had a lifetime of struggles with the condition. Her symptoms began when she was just 3 months old.
In her home country of Morocco, epilepsy is often left untreated, so it wasn’t until she came to the United States that all of her challenges were given a name.
Her epilepsy was resistant to medications
“I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” so it was a relief to finally have a diagnosis, Leila says through her friend, Thoraia Hussein, who translates for her from Arabic to English. But treatment came with its own difficulties. She was put on several medications, and when they didn’t work, her prescriptions were changed. But those didn’t help, either.
“My epilepsy is resistant to medications, no matter what they are,” she says. “I tried everything doctors suggested, but my seizures got worse.”
But a few years ago, Leila came to Inova Fairfax Hospital, whose Epilepsy Center has a level 4 designation. This meant that surgery was an option — one that Leila did not have before. Mohan Kurukumbi, MD, Medical Director for Epilepsy, says that patients like Leila who don’t respond to medications should be considered for epilepsy surgery, which can cure seizures for about 60 to 80 percent of patients.
Patient got her life back with surgery that stops her seizures
After a resection surgery was recommended, Leila opted to have this procedure, which involved inserting a small medical device in the brain that changes its electrical activity. This neurostimulation basically “shorts out” a seizure before it can happen.
“To many people, it may sound extreme because this is brain surgery,” says Dr. Kurukumbi. “But it’s a proven procedure that provides a very good option for those who don’t do well with medication. We are proud to have level 4 certification, which represents the highest possible care level and advanced treatment, including many surgical options like vagal nerve simulator, responsive neurostimulation and intercranial electrode monitoring.”
Leila was the first to undergo the procedure at Inova, in 2014. She’s been seizure-free ever since.
“I feel amazing,” she says. “I got my life back. I can do anything I want without fear of having a seizure and waking up in the hospital with an injury. I feel free.”
What does it mean to be a Level 4 (Highest Level) Epilepsy Center?
The National Association of Epilepsy Centers has developed its ranking system (4 is the highest) to designate which epilepsy centers provide the most advanced levels of care. Inova Fairfax Hospital is a Level 4, and Inova Alexandria Hospital is a Level 3 center.
1. Advanced surgical care
2. Intensive neurodiagnostic monitoring
3. Extensive medical, neuropsychological and psychosocial treatment
4. Complete evaluation for epilepsy surgery, including intercranial electrodes