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Patient proves it’s never too late for epilepsy surgery

May 16, 2024 | Paul Taylor
uci health epilepsy surgery patient kelly hyde outside in front of a store walking and looking sideways toward the camera
Kelly Hyde battled seizures for years until UCI Health neurosurgeon Dr. Sumeet Vadera recommended surgery. Credit: Kelly Hyde

In 2015, Kelly Hyde and her husband Jim moved to Colorado to be closer to their youngest daughter, who was entering college. Hyde, a Costa Mesa native, loved it.

Four months later, in January 2016, she suffered a seizure. It would be the first of many and the start of an eight-year odyssey filled with fear, frustration, an endless supply of medications that did little and a frightening misdiagnosis.

It ended with the help of Dr. Sumeet Vadera, a UCI Health neurosurgeon who removed a part of Hyde’s brain, giving her what she calls “a new life.”

“After the first seizure, my husband called 911,” she recalls. “They took me to the local hospital where they misdiagnosed me as having had a massive heart attack.”

Doctors implanted a pacemaker and defibrillator in her chest.

“Fifteen days later, I had another seizure,” Hyde says, who was 52 at the time.

Her doctors realized that her seizures were the result of excessive electrical surges in her brain. But they didn’t know what was causing them.

Hyde recalls her doctor telling her, “There's no trauma to your heart, you never had a heart attack at all. This was a seizure, and I don't have any idea why.”

Cause is a mystery

Hyde was prescribed various medications but kept having seizures. Thinking that perhaps living at a higher elevation in Colorado could be causing her seizures, the family returned to California in 2020.

Within three weeks of the move, her convulsions resumed. Each time she went to the hospital, she was given another drug to try. At one point, she was taking 16 pills a day. Many of them left her feeling weak and disoriented.

“My husband was seriously having to walk me around,” she recalls. “I couldn't walk straight. My vision would just go black. It felt like I was just sitting around waiting for the next seizure.”

Determined to get her off the cocktail of drugs that seemed to be hurting more than helping, Hyde’s primary care physician referred her to the UCI Health Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, Orange County's only academic epilepsy program and one of the leading epilepsy centers in Southern California.

Coordinated care

After Hyde underwent a series of tests at UCI Health, a multidisciplinary team of epileptologists, neuroradiologists, a neuropsychologist and Vadera evaluated her case to determine a course of treatment.

The team recommended surgery for her drug-resistant epilepsy.

Hyde is among about a third of epilepsy patients whose seizures are not well-controlled by medications. Possible surgical options should be discussed with these patients early on, says UCI Health epileptologist, Dr. Brian Jung, who is Hyde's physician.

"For persons with drug-resistant epilepsy, many different forms of epilepsy surgery are available, which could provide new hope."

Pinpointing the source

Hyde was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy, which originates in the part of the brain associated with encoding memory and auditory processing.

Vadera recommended a lobectomy to remove the temporal lobe.

“It is the most effective treatment we have for this type of seizure,” he says, noting that between 60% to 80% of patients are seizure-free afterward.

“That is higher than any other treatment option, including laser therapy, neurostimulation and medication.”

Never too late for surgery

Vadera was convinced that Hyde, who had turned 60, was an excellent candidate for the procedure. She came through the surgery with flying colors and no loss of function.

“Research has shown that it’s never too late to benefit from epilepsy surgery,” Vadera says. “Some patients believe it’s too late or are told this. But there is always a surgical option for uncontrolled epilepsy.”

Such treatment is essential, he adds, because ongoing seizures can injure the brain, causing cognitive deterioration, developmental delays in children and increased mortality.

Vadera and fellow neurosurgeons at UCI Health have performed many temporal lobectomies with excellent outcomes. Working at Orange County’s only academic medical system, they also provide the most advanced treatments to epilepsy patients of all ages.

You don’t have to sell Hyde on the value of receiving care at UCI Health.

“This option was the only light at the end of a really dark, eight-year tunnel,” she says.

“I feel like I got a whole new redo, like I’ve got a chance at a future that I did not have before. I just feel incredible.”

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