Give children the gift of hope
Epilepsy is a difficult disease. It can rob young people of a social life, their independence and even their childhood.
Meet the Blanchard family. Pam and Jayson were terrified when their baby boy, Beckett, began having
seizures—sometimes up to 30 a day.
At just a few days old, Beckett would have episodes where his breathing would change and his eyes would roll. After
an MRI identified a lesion in his brain, neurology experts at the Alberta Children’s Hospital suspected it could be thecause of the seizures.
The first step was to start Beckett on anti-seizure medication right away. While the medication did help by reducing
the frequency of the seizures, it didn’t stop them completely and it made him tired and groggy. His parents were disheartened—understanding all too well that with each seizure their son suffered, his brain was being put at risk for damage. Thankfully, Beckett’s doctors didn’t give up.
Specialists ran EEG testing to better understand the electrical activity of his brain. The EEG results, along with
another MRI, determined exactly where the seizures were originating. That’s when Pam and Jayson met with Dr. Walter Hader, a neurosurgeon at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Dr. Hader told Beckett’s worried parents their son was a good candidate for brain surgery and that it could be a possible cure. Having already lived through hundreds of seizures with their son, they prayed that surgery could be the answer they so desperately needed.
Did you know?
One third of children with uncontrolled epilepsy are good candidates for brain surgery as a treatment.
While surgery can either cure or rid these children of 90% of their seizures, there are risks involved.
For parents and families, the thought of an operation on their child's brain can be extremely frightening.
In April of 2016, Beckett underwent a three-hour operation, where Dr. Hader was able to expertly remove the lesion in Beckett’s brain. The time their little boy was in the operating room was the longest three hours of Pam and Jayson’s lives. But they had complete confidence in Beckett’s team and knew they were in the right place.
The surgery went smoothly with no complications. Beckett’s parents were so relieved to learn that Dr. Hader was able
to remove the majority of the lesion—which turned out to be a tumour, though thankfully non-cancerous.
Following surgery, Beckett’s anti-seizure medication was gradually reduced until he no longer required any at all. Today, Beckett is seizure-free! He hasn’t had even one since his operation. He is a happy and healthy little boy who loves riding his
bike and going to the playground.
“Our lives have changed so much since the operation Beckett's life especially. We feel like we can dream for him again and that's really exciting. We know the Alberta Children's Hospital saved our son's life. But they also saved his future.”
– Pam and Jayson Blanchard, Beckett's parents
The reality is as many as 40% of children with epilepsy are unresponsive to current medications and have no reprieve from their potentially life-threatening seizures.
"We know that brain surgery is extremely effective for some children. However, depending on the location of the tumour within the brain, removing it can be invasive. The process can be daunting for families and some parents choose not to put their child through it," says Dr. Hader.
Brain experts at the Alberta Children’s Hospital are excited about emerging technology that will provide less invasive and more effective ways to surgically treat children with drug-resistant epilepsy. They want to cure even more children of their seizures, but they need your help.
Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT)
LITT is state-of-the-art technology that will allow the hospital’s neurosurgeons to perform a revolutionary procedure to stop seizures. In this life-changing surgery, a laser probe is placed into a target deep within the brain through a tiny incision. The probe then heats up and destroys the tissue responsible for causing the seizures.
While we use the utmost care to plan and perform operations within the brain, LITT technology will allow us to operate with even greater precision, in a less invasive way,” says Dr. Hader. “Considering what’s at stake—a child’s life, a child’s
future—my colleagues and I are grateful for any technology that makes these procedures as safe as possible.”
“We are operating millimetres from nerves, vessels and vital structures, so there's little margin for error.”
– Dr. Walter Hader, neurosurgeon, Alberta Children's Hospital
LITT technology will make brain surgery safer and more accessible for children suffering from seizures.This state-of-the-art equipment will improve outcomes for some of the hospital’s most vulnerable patients by: greatly reducing post-operative pain and the risk of infections, thanks to smaller incisions; shortening the length of stay in hospital from seven days to just one day; reducing stress on families; and providing brain surgery as an option to more children suffering from seizures.
Your support will help position the Alberta Children's Hospital as a leader in pediatric epilepsy in western Canada.