No one knew why Joey Maggard starting having seizures.
His mother Erin Smith was shocked when the seizures began. Maggard had been so healthy.
“Everything was normal with Joey from the get-go,” she said at a UK HealthCare press conference on Monday. “We didn’t have any epilepsy in our family as far back as we could go.”
Maggard recalled his first seizure: He began eating at a family dinner and suddenly “felt weird.” He couldn’t speak. His body felt as if it were shaking. Then everything went black.
The experience was terrifying, and often repeated. Maggard had 20-30 debilitating seizures a month, sometimes as many as four a day. Smith had to sit in the bathroom while her son showered to make sure he did not injure himself by having a seizure while in the bath.
Maggard was among those who are resistant to medication intended to control their epilepsy. But now, after a UK procedure in January that first mapped his brain and then removed the sections responsible for causing the seizures, he is seizure-free and looking forward to again playing soccer and baseball.
The brain mapping was done to help the surgeon avoid areas of the brain that control Maggard’s motor and visual functioning.
He’s also back in school, which he had to forgo during the second half of sixth grade.
Dr. Meriem Bensalem-Owen, director of the UK Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, said that while the epilepsy surgery has been available for years, many drug-resistant epilepsy patients are unaware of its potential benefits.
“If somebody’s drug-resistant, they should definitely have an evaluation,” Bensalem-Owen said.
The Epilepsy Foundation notes on its website that people who are resistant to drug treatment are starting to consider surgery sooner, as the earlier it’s performed, the better the outcome.
Maggard is still on two anti-seizure medications, but those may eventually be discontinued, Bensalem-Owen said.
Maggard is looking forward to practicing baseball in the backyard of his Stanford home. He said he can hit a ball so hard and far that it’s alarming to his younger sister, who used to routinely remind him to take his anti-seizure medications.
He smiles. Getting back to normal sibling interaction? It’s a good thing.