Sunday, March 1, 2015

Becoming Bionic

Really early Friday morning (I really hate that they always schedule surgeries early in the morning) Keith and I went to the hospital for a same-day surgery. The purpose was to implant a vagal nerve stimulator (VNS) device. It is a kind of pace maker for the brain.

Photo taken from
  This is the basics of how it works (if you don't really care about how it works just skip to the next paragraph ;) ). There are two vagus nerves, one on either side of your neck. They are in charge of telling your body to do all the things you don't have to think about (heart beating, breathing, etc.). The implant is done on the left side because it sends more signals to the brain while the right one sends more signals down to the heart. I will have it turned on in two weeks at which point it will begin stimulating (sending little shocks) to the nerve at regular intervals that can be adjusted by my neurologist by this cool wand thing. A common setting is 30 seconds of stimulation every 5 minutes. The side effects are minimal and only occur while the nerve is being stimulated. They include tickling sensations in my throat, hoarseness and shortness of breath. Another bonus feature is that is comes with a magnet that can trigger a stimulation when I feel a seizure coming on. This can make the seizure stop completely or at least minimize it. 

Very rarely does it take the seizures away completely, though it may decrease their frequency (sometimes dramatically). It is designed to decrease the medications people with drug-resistant epilepsy (i.e. the drugs just aren't working) need to take which, it turn, can dramatically increase their quality of life. Boy can I testify to that!!! That alone would be worth it!!!

The positive results won't be immediately evident. The side effects decrease over time and the benefits increase over the following months and years. So it will be yet another test of patience, but Keith and I both feel that this is the right road to take. During the weeks before the surgery I told Keith that I had never been so excited about a surgery! I really am excited to see how this will affect my seizures over time.

P.S. I am discovering that same-day surgery isn't the same thing as same-day recovery...


Deb said...

I had no idea they could even do stuff like that. That is crazy! And awesome! We'll be praying that it makes a great difference for you.

Patience is such a strange thing to me. The more I pray for it, the less I feel I have! Sometimes I think that is the one thing the Lord really wants me to know, but I must need a lot of practice to figure it out. :) Love you, Katie!

Whitney Hardie said...

Wow, Katie - this is so exciting! Thanks for the update. I too am curious to see how much it works for you over the months/years.

I hope this is an answer to prayer for you - you have been so very patient and faithful in all of this. You inspire me. Love you!