Perceived misbehavior in the classroom led to Rick Hood’s epilepsy diagnosis. One day, Rick’s kindergarten teacher thought he was acting out when he actually suffered a seizure.
“He fell out of his chair, and when the teacher came over to him, he had no idea what was going on,” said Rick’s mother, Jamie. “Our pediatrician acknowledged that was odd behavior, so she referred us to a neurologist for evaluation.”
Rick was referred to pediatric neurologist Dr. Katherine Hammond at Children’s of Alabama, who was able to record seizure activity in Rick’s brain via an electroencephalogram (EEG). Rick began medication to prevent seizures, which seemed to work for a while, but he “hit a growth spurt and all of a sudden had a cluster of seizures,” Jamie said. “That’s when doctors added a second medication, but it seemed to progressively get worse.”
Doctors increased Rick’s dosage, but to no avail. Rick and his family visited with pediatric neurologist Dr. Helen Barkan at Children’s to discuss the possibility of surgery. Rick was admitted to Children’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, where he underwent three days of testing to determine whether he was an eligible surgery candidate – and it was there Rick had his first convulsive seizure. “We spent the next six months doing all sorts of testing with the epilepsy monitoring team to determine if surgery should be the next step,” Jamie said.
Surgery was recommended, but another test was needed to determine the depth of seizure activity in Rick’s brain. “The surgeon inserted intracranial electrodes into Rick’s brain, which showed that only the right side of his brain was having seizures,” Jamie said. “That meant they could leave the left side of his brain alone. Before the testing was over, he began having more seizures, so it was decided to remove the electrodes and schedule laser ablation surgery.”
Thermal laser ablation, touted as less invasive than an open brain surgery or craniotomy, uses a flexible laser fiber that is guided through a “nick” scalp incision. The laser heats and destroys abnormal brain tissue, leaving the surrounding healthy tissue unharmed. “Having your child endure brain surgery is terrifying,” Jamie said. “But the doctors did everything they could to help me, his father, Richard; my fiancé, Brandon; and his stepmom, Emily, get to that decision. They made sure we had every question answered. They were also great with Rick, explaining things to him on his level.”
After a six-hour surgery—one in which doctors even let Rick bring along his favorite stuffed animal to calm his nerves—doctors gave Jamie and Richard the news that it was a complete success. Rick was discharged home the next day. Since then, Rick has shown great improvement. His seizures have ceased and he’s doing well in school. “You can tell his brain is so much clearer now,” Jamie said. “We couldn’t be more appreciative of everyone at Children’s. They went above and beyond.”