The Lytle family’s experience with neurological disease began when Kelly and Rich’s youngest son, Oliver, was just four-and-a-half years old in 2011. After a sudden and unexpected seizure, an electroencephalogram (EEG) found abnormal spiking on the left side of his brain, confirming he had epilepsy. For almost two years, medication controlled it. But eventually, no medication was working; Oliver was experiencing intractable epilepsy. “It was a rough time,” Kelly said. “Oliver was having numerous breakthrough seizures, even though we had tried a lot of different kinds of medications.”
To get more information about why Oliver was failing multiple medications, the family traveled from their home in Asheville, North Carolina to Children’s of Alabama. After intense monitoring in the epilepsy unit, a magnetoencephalography (MEG) test coordinated with the EEG scan to help Dr. Monisha Goyal and the pediatric epilepsy team somewhat pinpoint the location of the seizures. “At this point, Oliver’s seizures were getting more frequent and it was becoming more difficult to control them,” Kelly said. “Tests revealed that he was having abnormal spiking every five seconds, which made it very difficult for him to focus and concentrate.”
The location was determined to be the frontal lobe of the brain, very close to the area that controls speech. Concerned about the risks of surgery affecting his motor skills and speech, Dr. Goyal recommended a fairly new procedure in the United States, stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG), which is a minimally invasive procedure that inserts electrodes into the brain through small openings to identify the exact zone of his seizures to tailor his future surgery. “They identified the exact location,” Kelly said. “They then had to determine where that was in relation to the specific area of his brain that controlled speech, which they were able to do with some functional testing.”
After six weeks of healing, Oliver had surgery to remove the area of his brain causing seizures. “There was some concern that after surgery he’d have problems with his oral muscles,” Kelly said. “Then, when he woke up, he asked for chicken fingers. We had wonderful results.”
Oliver required no rehabilitation post-surgery. In fact, he was quickly requesting food—his favorite being the hospital’s fried okra—and he was soon back to playing basketball with the nurses with a mini hoop on the back of his hospital room door. While he was excited when discharged to go home, Oliver first participated in a Star Wars event at the hospital, where he got to meet and have his photo made with some of his favorite characters, a highlight of his time spent at Children’s. “Children’s staff did such a great job of taking his mind off of why he was there and creating opportunities to make him smile,” Kelly said.
Now a year after surgery, Oliver is completely seizure free. Said Dr. Goyal, “Since surgery, Oliver is making great strides in school and with social interactions. Watching his progress is very gratifying for our entire epilepsy surgery team.”
Although he is still making trips to Children’s for checkups, Oliver is enjoying life as a typical third grader: learning his multiplication tables, taking drum lessons, and playing sports like martial arts and basketball. “We’ve experienced a miracle,” Kelly said. “Our whole family has been positively impacted. We feel like we have been able to get our child back. We are so thankful for everything Children’s did to make that happen.”