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Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can reduce or even eliminate seizures in some individuals impacted by epilepsy – particularly those who have not gained seizure control after trying two or more treatment options. But why does keto work for these individuals and how do doctors decide which patients to recommend for this treatment?

On this episode of Seizing Life, join us to learn more about using the ketogenic diet for seizure control from registered dietician Robyn Blackford and advanced practice nurse Breanne Fisher from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

‘My little heroes’: Singleton children save grandpa’s life after terrifying seizure

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A Singleton grandfather has thanked his “little heroes” for saving his life after he had a seizure last month.

Ian Wilson was looking after his grandchildren Addy, 6 and Liam, 7, at home on Monday, December 16 when he had a seizure, fell, broke his nose and was knocked unconscious.

Addy noticed her ‘grampy’ wasn’t waking up and was surrounded by a pool of blood, immediately alerting her brother.

Liam tried to call 000 but, when for some reason he wasn’t getting through, called his mother, Claire Oliffe, to summon for help.

She called for an ambulance before “breaking all speed limits” to get to the house where she said she was “confronted” with her dad collapsed on the floor having seizures and with bad cuts to his eyes and nose.

Meanwhile, Liam and Addy remained calm and stayed with their grandpa until four paramedics in two ambulances arrived.

Mr Wilson was transferred straight to the Intensive Care Unit at Royal Perth Hospital under priority one.

“Words cannot express how proud I was of my two babies for not only knowing to call me to get help, but also staying with grampy to make sure he was okay,” Mrs Oliffe said.

“The calmness they showed just amazes me – even I, as the adult, could not say I was the same.

“They far exceeded anything I thought they were capable of and it just shows how these kids learn and jump into action when needed.”

Mr Wilson didn’t wake until the next day, Tuesday, December 17.

While he has had a relatively quick recovery, specialists are still running tests to determine what caused Mr Wilson’s seizure.

However, he said he would just be forever grateful for the children saving his life, and for coming to visit him in hospital to “make sure grampy was okay”.

“The children moved promptly, kept their cool and saved my life,” he said.

“They’re my little heroes.”

Service dog costs should be compensated for people with epilepsy, autism, petition says

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Cindy Martel depends on her black labrador, Jimmy, every day. 

The nine-year-old service dog has the ability to sense when Martel, who has epilepsy, is about to have a seizure.

The pup barks before each seizure, giving her enough notice to find somewhere safe to lie down and rest her head.

“If I’m having a seizure, he’s going to keep barking until someone else notices and can help me.”

“We have a special connection,” she said. “It’s hard to explain, but we’re just like one.”

Jimmy is with Martel 24 hours a day, since she could have a seizure anytime.

But she says the cost of owning a service dog is too high — a sentiment that’s echoed in a petition that was submitted to the National Assembly, asking the government to provide funding for people with epilepsy, hearing impairments and autism who require service animals.

The provincial government currently offers yearly subsidies for people with visual impairments and mobility issues.  

Starting Jan. 1, the amount of compensation they receive yearly will double from $1,028 to $2,240.

Service dogs provide safety, comfort

Martel was diagnosed with epilepsy at 15. Since then, her seizures have come without any warnings or signs.

After dozens of injuries and trips to the ER for concussions, she was forced to wear a helmet everywhere she went to protect her head.

She recalled a time when a seizure had left her lying outside in the snow in December.  

“No one had come to help me,” she described. Her husband realized she was missing after 30 minutes.

This incident pushed Martel and her family to look for help. She reached out to the Lions Foundation Canada, a company that pairs people with disabilities with trained service dogs. That’s where she found Jimmy. 

Martel says her dog has given her her freedom back. 

The pup, who follows her everywhere she goes, has given her the security she needed to live a more normal life.

Too high a cost

Martel says her epilepsy has left her unable to work, making it difficult to make ends meet.

With other life expenses such as electricity, rent and food, Martel says it’s difficult to cover the cost of a service dog. 

She explained that, on average, she pays roughly $60 for dog food, along with mandatory veterinarian checkups and vaccines.

Martel acknowledges that the province’s current program — which reimburses fees associated with service dogs for people who are visually impaired and have motor control issues — is only a small amount. She says it can still help make a difference for people like her.

Petition calls on government to widen criteria

That’s why Nancy Lévesque, a Rivière-des-Prairies woman who has a hearing impairment, launched a petition calling on the provincial government to include epilepsy, hearing impairments, autism and other conditions to the yearly allowance program.

Like Martel, Lévesque says she cannot work because of her condition, and hopes the government will step in to help with payments for her service dog, Ohana.

Quebec’s Health Ministry says it would need to see more evidence to demonstrate the value of expanding the program before doing so.

In the meantime, Martel hopes others who are in her situation don’t lose hope.

Possible explanation of how an epileptic seizure spreads through the brain

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In some forms of epilepsy, the function of certain “brake cells” in the brain is presumed to be disrupted. This may be one of the reasons why the electrical malfunction is able to spread from the point of origin across large parts of the brain. A current study by the University of Bonn, in which researchers from Lisbon were also involved, points in this direction. The results will be published shortly in the renowned Journal of Neuroscience.

For their study, the researchers investigated rats suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy. This is the most common form of the disease in humans. Unfortunately, it barely responds to the currently available medicines. “This makes it all the more important to determine exactly how it arises,” stresses Dr. Leonie Pothmann, who completed her doctorate on the subject at the Institute of Experimental Epileptology at the University of Bonn.

The data that has just been published may help scientists with this endeavor, because they indicate that a certain cell type does not function properly in patients. The affected cells are a class of so-called inhibitory interneurons, which are cells that can attenuate the excitation of brain areas. “We investigated interneurons in the hippocampus, an area of the temporal lobe known as the focus of epileptic seizures,” explains Pothmann.

Pyramidal cells play an important role in the transmission of excitation in the hippocampus. They generate voltage pulses in response to an electrical stimulus. These stimulate, among other things, interneurons, which in turn inhibit the pyramidal cells. This feedback loop acts as a kind of brake: It prevents the voltage pulses from propagating unhindered. An epileptic seizure would thus be nipped in the bud before it is able to spread to other parts of the brain.

Brake simulation in the computer

“In the rats, however, this brake did not work well compared to healthy animals,” says Pothmann’s colleague Dr. Oliver Braganza. “Our measurements show that the rapid, robust inhibition that occurs in healthy animals is greatly reduced in sick animals.”

In order to find out why this might happen and what the effects might be, the scientists simulated the interaction of pyramidal cell and interneuron on the computer. They changed certain properties of the virtual interneuron until its behavior in the simulation was exactly the same as in the sick animals.

The results provide information about two possible disturbances: The interneurons appear to release only a small part of the signal molecules (neurotransmitters) stored inside their cells in response to a stimulus. Additionally, their membranes are not working properly: They are unable to maintain a voltage gradient very well, almost as if they had a slight short circuit. Both factors contribute to the interneurons being activated only relatively weakly. In computer simulation, this interaction with the pyramidal cells resulted in the unhindered transmission of the type of activity that occurs in epileptic seizures.

“We now have to investigate these findings further,” explains Prof. Dr. Heinz Beck, head of the Institute of Experimental Epileptology and Associate Member of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. “First we have to find out whether the two disruptions are actually responsible for the malfunction of the interneurons. If so, this may open the way to new therapeutic approaches in the long term.” However, the results are still pure basic research, he emphasizes. “It is by no means clear whether they will benefit patients—and if they do, it will certainly take many more years.”

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Epilepsy… It’s Complicated

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” Among the public – and even among some medical professionals – the complexities of epilepsy are frequently underappreciated.

But those within the epilepsy community know this condition is very complicated in diagnosis, cause, impact, and treatment. In this episode of Seizing Life, we chat with Dr. Charles Marcuccilli about why the many truths of epilepsy aren’t well-known and what patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals can do to educate others and reduce epilepsy stigma.

Dr. Marcuccilli is the Director of Pediatric Epilepsy at the Rush University Medical Center. “