Family 411: New surgery changing epilepsy outcomes

A new surgery to control epileptic seizures has helped Rev. Jennifer Casto. (WSYX/WTTE)

COLUMBUS (WSYX/WTTE) Epilepsy can strike anyone at any time. But a unique surgery is transforming lives.

One woman made a big decision about undergoing the surgery after enduring decades of debilitating seizures.

Jennifer Casto's life's work doesn't come easy.

"I did have to work very hard at it," said Reverend Casto.

Rev. Casto draws inspiration from a higher power.

"Preparing sermons are hard work anyway fortunately we trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us," said Rev. Casto.

Rev. Casto spreads the word of God as a United Methodist pastor.

She's done it for 25 years and for more of that time, Casto also struggled with a debilitating disorder.

"It was described to me that I would go away that I would lose sense of time," said Rev. Casto.

Rev. Casto has epilepsy.

It was diagnosed relatively early so that I could get on medications but over time the medications stopped working," said Rev. Casto.

One thing many may take for granted, Casto couldn't do on her own.

"Ultimately I did have a grand mal seizure about 6 years ago and unfortunately it was while I was driving," said Rev. Casto.

Epilepsy is a common chronic condition in the United States.

"In general 1 in 26 people can develop epilepsy," said OhioHealth Neurologist, Dr. Emily Klatte.

It can hit a person out of the blue.

"It can affect anyone at any age it's slightly more common in children and then as people age it can develop at any age for any reason," said Dr. Klatte.

Rev. Casto could still work, but for 6 years she relied on others after driving was taken out of the equation.

"Just losing that sense of freedom is very difficult and feeling a sense of dependency on the congregation instead of being able to provide that," said Rev. Casto.

When medications no longer worked, she became a candidate for a unique surgery called laser ablation.

"Often people would say that would be very courageous to have the surgery I looked at it more as here is hope," said Casto.

It's minimally-invasive with quick recovery time compared to traditional brain surgery.

Most of the procedure happens in an MRI machine.

"We take scans that help us to align the laser catheter to the target," said OhioHealth Neurosurgeon, Dr. Girish Hiremath.

Dr. Hiremath says applies heat to destroy diseased brain tissue.

"It allows us to make a small incision on the scalp maybe about an inch in length a small hole in the skull pass a laser catheter into the structures of the brain that are diseased in which are producing seizures," said Dr. Hiremath.

It's a way to control epilepsy and either reduce or eliminate medication.

Rev. Casto has been seizure free a year and a half.

"To see that we could change somebody's life in such a revolutionary way these are the patients that sort of keep us going," said Dr. Hiremath.

A sense of freedom comes in many forms. For Rev. Casto, it's what epilepsy took away.

"It allows me to drive again which is such freedom," said Rev. Casto.

Check with your neurologist to see if you would be considered a candidate for this surgery. Dr. Hiremath says any surgery should be discussed among families to weigh risks and benefits.

Dr. Hiremath says this procedure involves a minimal skin incision and the patient usually goes home the next day with recovery lasting not more than a couple days.

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