For Aaron Alejos, 46, family is everything. His wife, Ronda, and their two adult daughters light up his life. After living with epilepsy for six years, it was this love for family that helped him make a life-changing decision in 2021.
In Reno Valley, California, USA, Alejos was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 40. “There was no trauma; it just happened,” Alejos said. “No one knows why.”
Alejos suffered a type of seizure that caused him to lose consciousness and then stare into space for a few moments. He never knew a crisis was brewing. “I just went on hiatus, like a computer screen that was frozen,” Alejos said. “I never realized I had one unless someone told me.”
Shortly after his diagnosis, Alejos’ doctor felt he needed a higher level of expertise and referred him to Loma Linda University’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Health Center. As a level 4 epilepsy center, the highest level of complex monitoring and treatment is provided.
Alejos saw neurologist Mohammad Dastjerdi, who explained that different treatment options are available for epilepsy, including medication and surgery. Initial treatment involves trying medications first.
Although he had occasional seizures, some of which caused him to lose his driver’s license after two crashes, Alejos felt the drugs allowed him to lead a fairly normal life.
Over time, however, the number of his seizures began to increase; but because they were brief and didn’t seem to impact his life, he wasn’t concerned.
But Dastjerdi was.
“He wanted me to understand the seriousness of the condition,” Alejos said. Dastjerdi explained that brain function, including memory, would deteriorate if the uncontrolled seizures continued. “I could get to where I didn’t know my wife or my kids,” Alejos said.
Dastjerdi used simple memory tests to show that the seizures had already affected his memory. “I was thinking, Wow, my head is no good“said Alejos. “It was a difficult realization.” He couldn’t imagine losing an important brain function. He was “game for whatever needed to be done to be whole again”.
The epilepsy investigation began with a five-day stay at Loma Linda University’s Epilepsy Surveillance Unit. The inpatient unit allows specialists to monitor and locate the specific area of the brain causing seizures to determine the most effective treatment.
Alejos had seven seizures while on the unit, which allowed specialists to see significant abnormal electrical activity to pinpoint the area of seizure onset. A multidisciplinary team of epilepsy specialists reviewed the results and discussed treatment options. Surgery has proven to be the best treatment option.
“I felt extremely confident to go ahead with the surgery,” Alejos recalls. “What sealed it was that a panel spoke about me. Seeing that Dastjerdi was willing to speak with other doctors even though he had years of experience and expertise convinced me I said, ‘Whatever you think, Doc.’ »
Alejos learned that his surgeon would be Warren Boling, chairman of neurosurgery. Boling’s research further boosted his confidence. “I was going to have the top notch guy. My sister-in-law, a nurse in Louisiana, knew him and told me how lucky I was to have him. I knew I couldn’t be in better hands.
During the four-hour surgery in January 2021, Boling removed a small section of brain tissue that was the seizure generator. This brain region with abnormal connections did not function normally and only caused disabling seizures.
After his surgery, Alejos recalled being “a happy camper,” and that hasn’t changed. He celebrated the absence of a crisis by getting his driver’s license in November and buying a new car.
Alejos was surprised at how quickly he benefited from epilepsy surgery. “I didn’t imagine such immediate results,” he said. “I’m not afraid that I won’t remember my wife and children in 10 years. Every corner I took, the Loma Linda team was the right one. I was lucky to be in their hands.
For Boling, every patient is an opportunity to serve patients with the pride each staff member takes in their ability to deliver world-class care.
“We are proud to be certified as one of the few Level 4 epilepsy centers for adult and pediatric patients, recognizing the ability of our comprehensive team to diagnose and treat the most complex and challenging cases that are referred to us, including a wide range of surgeries,” he said.
the original version of this story was published on Loma Linda University news sites.