Life-changing epilepsy treatment lets mom be a mom

Kristen Neaville faced the heartbreaking reality that epilepsy was robbing her of quality time with her husband and child. Neaville, 30, started having seizures when she was in grade school, and doctors formally diagnosed her with epilepsy at age 21.

“I had smaller seizures that only I could feel and nobody else knew what they were. I would stare off into space or feel funny or scared,” Neaville commented.

Her epilepsy got to the point where she couldn’t drive and couldn’t be alone with her young son.

Desperate to get her life back, she talked to her doctor who referred her to Carle Neuroscience Institute’s epilepsy program.

Physicians monitored her brain activity and were able to see where the epilepsy originated. Specialists determined she was a candidate for surgery that could actually stop the seizures and improve her quality of life.

Neurosurgeons removed a small portion of brain tissue, which was causing her seizures. She has now been seizure-free for over a year. Today she cherishes independence and a normal life with her family.

Her progress wouldn’t have come without medical advances.
“Conducting innovative research means having the desire to not just settle for the status quo, but to push the boundaries forward and deepen an understanding of the disease to guide better treatment,” explained Graham Huesmann, MD, PhD, the fellowship-trained Carle Neuroscience Institute physician who launched the epilepsy program in 2014.

Previously, patients had to go to Chicago, St. Louis or Indianapolis for the care now offered in east central Illinois.

“After a careful diagnosis and going over all of her options, Kristen decided to have the surgery, and it was a resounding success. We are so pleased with her progress,” Dr. Huesmann said.

And, after Neaville’s surgery, she now can do all the things required of a young mother.

“I have a lot more energy, I can play with my son, I can shop, and I can drive a car,” Neaville commented.

“Before surgery, I was never alone with my 3-year old son, but now I can be.”

WCIA-TV profiled Kristen and her family's journey.