I don’t have many clear memories from my early childhood.
In fact, most of my hazy memories consist of me playing log tag outside with my friends, sharing snacks at lunch, throwing crabapples at moving cars (yeah… my friends and I probably shouldn’t have done this), and trading Pokemon cards at recess.
Although, there is one memory that I clearly remember from my early childhood, and it’s one I’ll never forget.
It happened in the first grade, during storytime. I was bored, and instead of paying attention to my teacher, naturally, I let my mind wander around its own thoughts.
While looking around to find a clock that could tell me when school was over, I noticed at the corner of my eye that one of my classmates was having a seizure.
At the time, I didn’t understand what was happening to the boy, or what a seizure was. I was very scared and confused, and it wasn’t long before everyone else noticed the poor boy wasn’t okay.
I remember seeing drool coming out of his mouth and his eyes rolling backwards. He lost consciousness and could not stop frantically shaking while lying on the ground.
It was scary enough for me to experience, but I could not possibly imagine what he had to experience. Imagine being a six-year-old and getting a seizure. No young child, let alone an individual, should ever have to experience it.
Thankfully, my teacher immediately called 911, and they were able to treat the young boy in time through medication. I remember the next day overhearing my teacher mumble to another colleague that the seizure was a result of epilepsy.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that results in brain activity being abnormal, causing seizures, unusual behaviour, and loss of awareness. This disorder can affect any individual, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or age.
When a person experiences two or more seizures or has a tendency to have recurring seizures, a doctor can diagnose someone with epilepsy.
Epilepsy is more common than you think, it’s one of the most common neurological disorders that individuals are diagnosed with worldwide.
Insanely enough, 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy.
Fortunately, seizures can be controlled through medication. Up to 70 % of people diagnosed with epilepsy can become seizure-free with the appropriate use of antiseizure medicines. However, taking the medication comes with a price to pay.
Many people are unhappy with these medications due to the side effects they can cause. Often, people who are diagnosed with epilepsy will say the side effects are worse than the actual seizures. Although the seizures may have stopped, many individuals deal with painful side effects every day.
Possible side effects as a result of seizure medications:
- blurred vision
- stomach problems and discomfort
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches
- extreme fatigue
- possible liver and pancreas issues
- Can cause large drops of blood cell count (these cells are necessary to fight infection)
- Can cause large drops in platelet counts (platelets are needed to control bleeding)
- Possibly getting Aplastic anemia (causes damages to bone marrow so blood cells aren’t produced normally)
- Possibly liver failure
These are just a few of the possible side effects that can be caused by anti-seizure medications. Understandably, if you had to experience some of the more common symptoms such as extreme fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, and discomfort every day, you might also agree that the side effects are worse than the actual seizures.
Fortunately, there is a way to stop seizures before you know they even happen, without any side effects.
This is a possibility as a result of a brain-computer interface device called the NeuroPace RNS.
How A Seizure Sparks Off
Before we jump into how the NeuroPace device works, let's understand how a seizure sparks off.
Think of your brain as an orchestra, and the electrical waves as members who play an instrument.
When everyone is in tune, your orchestra performs well and the music sounds great.
If a few people are out of tune, it's barely noticeable and the orchestra can still make decent music.
However, if the majority of people are out of tune, the orchestra is going to produce really bad music.
Essentially, seizures start as a result of unusual brain activity, aka when the orchestra (the brain) has the majority of people (the brainwaves) playing out of tune.
How does the NeuroPace RNS device work?
The NeuroPace RNS device allows for drug-resistant focal epilepsy treatment. You can compare this device to a pacemaker. Similar to how a pacemaker monitors and reacts to heart rhythms, NeuroPace is currently the only medical device that can monitor and react to unusual brain activity, preventing brain seizures.
The NeuroPace RNS device provides neurostimulation in an individual’s nervous system, through the use of an RNS system.
This system consists of a small invasive neurostimulator connected to leads, which are tiny wires consisting of electrodes. The leads are placed in up to two areas of the brain that may experience possible seizure activity. The neurostimulator is placed on the skull under the scalp.
This neurostimulator is a small battery-powered device, programmed by a specialist that understands the certain types of brain activity an individual faces.
The NeuroPace RNS system is constantly monitoring your brain activity, even when you are sleeping. As soon as any unusual activity is detected, the device will send brief electrical pulses to that area of your brain that might be prompting a seizure. The stimulation will normalize your brain waves (effectively stopping the source of a seizure), and as a result of this, a seizure can be stopped before any symptoms appear in an individual.
Essentially this device will prevent seizures at their source by:
- Monitoring brain activity
- Detecting unusual activity
- Providing real-time electrical pulses to prevent a seizure.
Over time the device can be improved and fine-tuned by analyzing the data collected through the neurostimulator, to better control seizures within a patient.
The Magic of This Device
The NeuroPace RNS system is arguably the best treatment for individuals who have to deal with epileptic seizures.
It’s a very safe surgery that has such a low risk of harm, and a very fast recovery rate (up to 2 days in the hospital). People who have to deal with the terrible symptoms that come with epilepsy can live a normal pain-free life as a result of this device detecting the prompt of a possible seizure, without providing any side effects to the individual.
Although you can’t get the NeuroPace RNS system implanted until you are 18, this device is changing the lives of many individuals who have epilepsy, allowing them to experience things normally instead of feeling the side effects of medicine or having uncalled for seizures.
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Hi, I’m Ashley, a 16-year-old coding nerd and A.I. enthusiast!
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