In 1994 I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Shortly after I began to feel unwell. I was getting sharp pains in my stomach area. I began to associate eating with the pain. I consulted my family doctor and my obstetrician, and they could not find the cause. Within 12 months I lost 45 pounds and went from a size 13 to a size 5. One day my cousin witnessed me black out and I could not remember what we were talking about prior to the episode. He insisted I tell my doctor. The doctor then sent me for more tests, MRI and EEG. They all came back normal.
My family doctor referred me to a neurologist. He started me on medication and it helped a bit. Soon the medication started having side effects which I could not tolerate. We tried many medications as time went by, but seizures got worse. No one could explain what was happening. I asked the medical staff if there was anything else that could be done, and I was told no.
In 1998 I was visiting my parents and relatives in Temiscaming and everyone could not believe how much weight I had lost. No one had ever seen me that thin. The news of my seizures made it to my former family physician, Dr. Gordon Brock. He asked my father, his co-worker, what was wrong with me. My father couldn’t explain and hence, they called me at home in Ottawa.
Dr. Brock explained to me that he could get me an appointment to see doctors at The Neuro. He knew a doctor that operated on epileptic patients which stopped the seizures. I discussed it with my husband and we decided to make the move. We sold our home in Ottawa and made the four-hour trek back to Temiscaming, a town of 2,200 in August of 1998.
With Dr. Brock as my family physician, I was referred to Dr. Frederick Andermann in November of 1998. Dr. Andermann agreed that I was a good candidate for a study that could lead to brain surgery. On Feb. 10, 1999, I was admitted to the Neuro under the watchful eyes of Dr. Andermann and Dr. André Olivier.
I was immediately impressed and amazed by their demeanour, care, compassion and most importantly, their knowledge. I had brought with me my scans from Ottawa and the team reviewed them in my presence. Immediately, they saw scar tissue in my right temporal lobe which was likely the cause for my seizures.
The Neuro team performed numerous tests, analyzed the data and came to conclusion that an operation was required. They explained to me that removing the scar tissue could cause side effects, but the odds were in my favour: a 98-per-cent success rate versus a two-per-cent chance of complications. I was explained the possible side effects could be difficulty in recognizing and remembering new names and faces. Extreme side effects could be new scar tissue which could result in changes to my personality, memory and even paralysis.
On March 2, 1998, Dr. Olivier and his team operated on me and the surgery lasted from very early morning until dinner time. I had family members waiting when I was moved to the recovery room. I had never undergone surgery before and everything seemed surreal.
After a few days of recovery, I returned home which was six hours away. Dr. Olivier and Dr. Andermann sent along with me detailed instructions for the hospital back home and to my family doctor.
Over time, the doctors slowly reduced my medications. Within two years of the surgery, my business took on a large client and I was traveling across North America implementing financial systems. I never stopped working during my journey. By year three, I had stopped all medications. I am seizure free ever since. At year eight, I ran in the municipal elections in my home town and was elected as a municipal councillor. Next elections I won by acclamation and four years later, I ran again and won with over 80 per cent of the vote.
In the last 20 years I have had a fulfilling career running my business, being an elected municipal official and a full-time employee for a large pulp and paper company implementing financial systems, supporting the business, optimizing business process and supporting the systems and users.
From a patient’s perspective, staff at The Neuro are special because of their knowledge, dedication, compassion and their track record. A family member who studied at The Neuro explained to me that most doctors at The Neuro specialize in one of many fields within their speciality. For example, a neuro surgeon specialized in neurosurgery for epilepsy. This makes each team member the best of the best in their field. I am also strong and persistent which helped me get better.
It was clear to me from the onset of recovery that things were changing for the better. A new dawn had broken, and I was seizure free in a very long time. I am followed until this day by my doctors, Dr. Olivier and Dr. Andermann. Dr. Olivier always wants me to drop by for a visit when I am in Montreal and no appointment is necessary. My team at The Neuro told me that I am one of the most successful patients to have ever undergone the process. Seven years after my surgery, Dr. Andermann wrote to Dr. Brock that he was shocked that I successfully ran my business, worked full time as a finance project leader for a major company and been involved in municipal politics. He wanted to find out what was special with my case as no one had ever had a large amount of temporal lobe removal and returned to a normal life. I believe that it’s because of the team I had at The Neuro. I owe my quality of life to The Neuro.
I have included The Neuro in my estate planning as I believe it is a way of giving back for what they have given me. I encourage patients (current and past) and their respective family members to do the same so that The Neuro can continue the tradition and success of producing future generation of specialists to continue their studies in the fields of epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and others neurological diseases.
The institution is the cornerstone of breakthrough innovations and a pride of our country. It should be our duty to honor and support institutions such as The Neuro which has made a great difference in people’s lives. I know it has made a difference in mine.