More than 3 million people in the United States have some form of epilepsy. That includes at least 65,000 people here in Arizona.
Those with epilepsy can suffer from seizures that lead to brief staring spells to convulsions.
Lorna Pierson loves to play the piano. Music is in her blood. She loves to play it and dance to it. Before she mastered the piano there was something else playing in her head.
"We got underneath carpeting that someone had just cleaned out and Dianne immediately said this doesn't feel right. Let's get from under this and I followed her under there and I just barely remember coming out the other side of the carpet and that's when I had my first seizure," said Pierson.
Thirty percent of people with epilepsy are children under the age of 18. Pierson discovered she had epilepsy at the age of 11.
At one point in her life, she says she was having 60 seizures a day."It felt like I was dreaming 12 dreams all at the same time and four of them were in the past and four of them were in the future and four of the dreams were going on right then," she said.
Pierson felt shame and embarrassment about her condition, she didn't even tell her parents at first.
Her days in junior high were a blur, she was taking 27 pills a day to help with the seizures.
"Everything that I was put on for the seizures caused some kind of a side effect that I just plain decided I just assumed have the seizures and I have been living that way for 40 years," she said.
She hit the breaking point in 1999. Pierson had a seizure while driving to the doctor. No one was hurt, but her driver's license was stripped. Then she made a phone call to her doctor.
"I am tired of literally keeping myself alive on a day to day basis, I don't believe in suicide but I don't know why I am alive," she said.
Lorna felt that she used all the medication, she used all her options and there was nothing that could help her seizures. But then she came to the first floor of the University of Arizona Medical Center and it was behind those doors where her life changed.
She became the third patient to have a minimal invasive laser surgery. An MRI is used to map the brain and find what causes the seizures.
"A small hole is drilled in the back of their head and the laser catheter is actually put right into the area of the brain that we want to destroy, we then take them to the MRI suite where we can see the catheter in place activate the laser we see the tissue being heated up and destroyed in real time," said David Labiner, UA Dept. of Neurology.
UAMC was the first hospital in the western part of the U.S. to perform the surgery.
"Part of being at an academic medical center is wanting to push the envelope a little bit that is to advance in the field this was a technology that had already been used and developed for treating brain tumors and it makes perfect sense that a laser can nicely destroy tissue," he said.
Dr. Labiner says Pierson was the perfect candidate for the surgery. Recovery time is about a day. Pierson had the surgery about a month ago and has been seizure free since.
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