A woman from Wyoming County drove herself to the hospital and back last week to talk with Newswatch 16. That might not sound like news to you, but it certainly is to her, after years of not being able to do almost anything alone, because of seizures.
There was a time that Joan Belcher of Meshoppen had to be with someone at all times. She couldn’t drive and depended completely on her family.
“I didn’t know when the seizures were coming on,” said Joan. “I would be very tired, didn’t know where I was. At the end of the seizure I’d feel like I was coming out of a tunnel.”
Joan had a form of epilepsy and was having at least two to three seizures per month, sometimes even weekly. She enlisted the help of her own personal dream team at Geisinger Wyoming Valley near Wilkes-Barre. Neurologist Dr. Carol Ulloa put Joan through a series of testing and scans, until she pinpointed a problem in the right temporal lobe of her brain, and recommended surgery. Risky, but Dr. Ulloa says is was the right option after so many medications had failed.
“The benefits? One is about a 75% chance of seizure freedom. Another is possibly being able to lower medications or come off of them,” Dr. Ulloa said.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Emrich suspected that scar tissue, perhaps from an accident several years ago, was to blame for Joan’s condition. He was right.
“Her seizures could be pinpointed to a specific area of the brain that, if we remove that area with surgery, we could stop the seizures,” Dr. Emrich told us.
One year later, Carol is seizure-free, and able to attend her granddaughter’s dance recital for the first time. In the past, the lights would trigger seizures. She also has her freedom back, not to mention her driver’s license.
“I have my independence. I’m driving, I can be by myself. It’s just unbelievable. I feel like a different person.”