Implant device for epilepsy patients can help keep seizures under control

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Nearly 3.5 million people suffer from epilepsy in this country, and for about one-third of them, medication no longer helps. But a new device implanted in the skull may change that. (KABC)

Nearly 3.5 million people suffer from epilepsy in this country, and for about one-third of them, medication no longer helps.

They're at the mercy of seizures that can strike at any time. But now, there's hope.

For Sharon Shafer of Woodland Hills, her life felt out of control.

"Most of the seizures are big enough to put me into that state, it must wipe out my memory," she said, "I have no idea it's happening and i don't remember that it happened."

The mother of two said debilitating seizures left her disoriented, frightened and unable to drive. Medications didn't help.

But finally, she found something that could work.

It took Shafer 12 years and 14 different kinds of medications before she decided to come to a comprehensive seizure disorder center like the one at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Dr. Dawn Eliashiv is getting feedback from a device implanted in Shafer's skull, called an RNS, or Responsive Neuro-stimulator device. It senses abnormal activity and sends a quick electrical pulse to Shafer's brain literally stopping a seizure in its tracks.

The remarkable technology has given Shafer her life back.

"I immediately started being aware of when I was about to fall into a seizure - because I would have that disorientation - oh God, here it comes - and it would stop the progression of the seizure and I would retain my memory that it had even happened," she said.

Eliashiv said any person with uncontrolled seizures should be seen at a comprehensive seizure disorders center. It's a place where many options can be explored.

But there are still challenges getting people to seek help.

"I still think some patients with epilepsy are being stigmatized. I still think they're afraid of coming forward. I still think there are some misunderstandings," Eliashiv said. "My ultimate aim for every patient is complete seizure freedom and that's what I want for (Shafer)."
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