Part of baby's brain removed to stop seizures

LOS ANGELES Infantile spasms are rare but often continue unrecognized. That's why they are so under diagnosed. Without early intervention, these children don't develop and can die from debilitating seizures.

One Oregon family knew they only had one chance to save their baby, so they took it.

Ten-month-old Evan Stauff from North Bend, Oregon had a hemispherectomy at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Surgeons removed a portion of his brain and disconnected the entire left side.

"The quality of life he'll have given the surgery versus not given the surgery is great, so you have to try," said Kathleen Stauff, Evan's mother.

It sounds extreme, but behind his electric smile, Evan suffered from infantile spasms.

"Everything you teach him, that you go through, is erased. The next day, your start over almost," said David Stauff, Evan's father.

Hospital video revealed seizure clusters several times a day. Each time, they caused a high voltage reading on his EEG.

"If these seizures were not stopped its very likely that Evan would not be able to recognize his mom or his dad, would not have language, would not be able to walk on his own," said Dr. Gary Mathern, director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery Program at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

He says the left side of Evan's brain didn't form correctly, so removing it is the only way to stop the debilitating seizures.

"You can't waste time with this, you know, everyday is another day lost," said David Stauff.

Because he's a baby, doctors say the remainder of Evan's brain will learn to compensate.

"We take advantage in children of what we call brain plasticity, the availability of the remaining hemisphere to take over some of the functions that would have been done by the other side," said Dr. Mathern.

He and his colleagues have performed about 16 hemispherectomies this year.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Evan went in for surgery. A week later, the seizures are gone.

Aside from the surgical scars, you'd never know Evan had brain surgery. It's possible Even will suffer a slight loss of motor skills and peripheral vision on his right side, but doctors believe Evan should be able to grow up and live a normal life.

Being home with Evan this Christmas will be the present ever.

"He now has that chance to be, you know, a kid, to have a normal opportunity," said David Stauff.

"The possibilities are endless, I suppose, so just take it a day at a time and take what we can get," said Kathleen Stauff.

Evan will spend about another week at UCLA but will be home in time for the holidays. Dr. Mathern says some infants who've had hemispherectomies have gone on to complete high school and college.

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