Danica Miner, 5, of Star City, West Virginia had not shown any obvious symptoms before she started having seizures in May 2019, and her parents thought she was being a normal, silly child.
When her seizures changed and she became unresponsive, Derrick and Tricia Miner, her parents, realized something was wrong and took her to Urgent Care, then to WVU Medicine Children’s.
Mark Lee, MD, chair of Neurosurgery at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, diagnosed Danica with focal dysplasia seizures. The seizures lasted only 15 to 20 seconds at first, but rapidly increased in duration and frequency despite treatment with medication. She had as many as 21 seizures in a day at the height of their frequency, often with several in succession, and it was taking longer to recover each time.
Dr. Lee performed surgery to place electrodes to stimulate areas of the brain and determine the region that was causing the seizures. The next day, Danica underwent a second surgery to remove brain tissue from the affected area. Lee performed a third surgery a week later to remove more tissue because Danica continued to seize.
“Our family asked why she had to have so many surgeries, but Dr. Lee explained to us that you can take away brain tissue, but you can’t put it back,” Derrick Miner said. “Once he explained this, it was like a switch flipped. We knew the doctors were doing everything they could to fix Danica’s seizures without leaving her with deficits or disabilities.”
After the third surgery, Danica continued to experience seizures that were uncontrolled by medication. Lee suggested laser ablation to cauterize a remaining lesion that extended deep into her brain. This technique allows neurosurgeons to access the affected part of the brain through a small hole in the skull using computer guidance and burn away the portion of the brain that is causing the child’s seizures. This reduces the potential for damage to the portions of the brain that are not affected, while providing a potentially curative treatment.
“Before Danica went in for the laser surgery, she would have a seizure and, just when she got her wits about her from it, she’d have another seizure 15 or 20 seconds later,” Derrick Miner said. “They told us that with this surgery, we would either notice results immediately or not. When she came back from the surgery, the seizures were gone, and she hasn’t had another since.”
After a six-week stay, Danica was able to go home and return to her normal life. She still has trouble with speech and the use of her right hand, but she is working with physical, occupational, and speech therapists to address those problems.
“Our friends and family members suggested that we should take Danica to a different hospital, but we knew that she was in the right place,” Derrick Miner said. “We’re just really grateful that this happened at the right time and that the right doctors were here to help her.”