Nora’s Epilepsy Story

Nora was born in 2008. She had normal or faster than average development in all ways. She has always been a particularly active and opinionated child since the moment that she was born.

In November of 2010, the day before Thanksgiving, Nora had her first tonic-clonic seizure. It lasted about 1 minute. We called 911 and the EMTs arrived in about 2 minutes. She was standing next to me when it began, she collapsed into my lap, convulsed for about 1 minute while turning blue, then went limp, resumed breathing and slowly came to. Afterward she was completely exhausted, which is entirely normal, so she slept on and off through the medical checks. The EMTs transported us to the emergency room, where Nora underwent all of the typical tests for major seizure causes. Her CAT scan was normal, spinal tap normal, no fever (they took her temperature at least 3 times. The EMTs at one point said that they thought their thermometer wasn’t working, they were so anxious to find a fever to explain the seizure). After a night in the hospital, we went home with no explanation. Everyone hoped that this was an isolated incident, although we were considering seeing an neurologist.

Before we could see a neurologist, Nora had another tonic-clonic about 3 weeks later while at daycare. The ambulance was called again and Ted met Nora in the ER. She had another seizure while in the ER, and they pumped her full of Levetiracetam (brand name Keppra), an anti-seizure medication. This time they did an MRI, which was also normal. We went home with a prescription for Keppra, while Nora was dizzy and disoriented from the initial high dose.

After 2 unexplained seizures in 3 weeks, Nora got an appointment with with Dr. Thomas Koch at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, OR, at the end of December 2010. She was considered an urgent case, so we were able to get an appointment within a few weeks. Nora’s EEG was normal and Dr. Koch told us that Keppra was his first choice for seizure medication because of the lower incidence of side effects and because it does not affect development. With a normal CAT scan, MRI, and EEG, we were told that Nora just seemed to have a lower seizure threshold than most people, and that anti-seizure medication would give her the best chance of outgrowing her tendency to have seizures.

Nora hooked up for an EEG

For 6 months, Nora took Keppra twice per day and she was seizure free. She seemed to have some side effects, such as aggression and hair loss, but we started to feel confident that the Keppra was preventing seizures. In July, we got approval from Dr. Koch to wean Nora off of the Keppra. We were told that 50% of kids will grow out of their seizure disorder in 6 months, so we decided that it would be better to be done with the Keppra sooner rather than later, if it were possible. If she had another seizure, we would go back to Keppra.

Just a few days after completely stopping Keppra, Nora had another tonic-clonic seizure. It happened during the early morning hours. Nora was not sleeping well that night, so I had been in and out of her room several times. I was tucking her in again and the seizure began while she was in bed. We called the neurologist’s office in the morning and started Keppra again right away.

Nine days later, she had another tonic-clonic while we were at the swimming pool in the afternoon. She recovered fine, the EMTs were called to check her out, and I was able to take her home with me as soon as I was able to put her in the car. During this time, we were building back up to a full dose of Keppra.

Five days later, she had another tonic-clonic while we were visiting the Oregon coast. It started in the car, so we stopped and took care of her, then drove right home when we were sure that she was ok (thankfully, we only live about 1 hour from the coast). She slept almost the whole way home, and was disappointed to find that we were in our driveway when she woke up because we were planning to stop for ice cream. She was in a great mood for the rest of the evening, but had another tonic-clonic at approximately 9 pm. Again she slept and recovered. We had her in our bed to keep an eye on her. Then she had yet another tonic-clonic that started in her sleep, around 1 am.

Three tonic-clonics in one day was devastating. And the next day, the myoclonics began.

A myoclonic seizure is a short involuntary bodily jerk. They are considered a type of generalized seizure because the whole brain is involved, but for Nora the jerk was contained to her upper body. Some could be so strong that it would throw her off-balance, and often she would have one while eating so food or cups would go flying. But immediately after a myoclonic, she was usually perfectly normal. She did not seem to be aware that she had a seizure, only that something fell or spilled. Sometimes there would be a longer postitcal period, where she was disoriented or irritable. We managed to catch one on video from Nov. 2011:

At first we didn’t know what we were seeing. It seemed like a relief at first, like she was starting to have a full tonic-clonic but it was somehow aborted. Maybe the Keppra was starting to work. But we realized soon enough that there was something else going on.

Just a note about myoclonic epilepsy: It’s scary. If you Google “myoclonic seizures,” you will see all kinds of terribly scary things, and they are notoriously difficult to control. The worst case scenarios are degenerative genetic disorders that have no treatment. The best case scenarios are still difficult to treat and disruptive to a child’s life and learning. These are heartbreaking disorders for every family that has to deal with it. Although Nora did not have other symptoms of the terrible degenerative disorders, it was terrifying to think that she could have one of these disorders.

We did not keep great records right away because we didn’t realize what was happening. On the third day after they started, I wrote down the times that I saw them–10 confirmed or suspected myoclonic seizures, scattered throughout the day. Our records show that we were counting under 10 every day for a few weeks, then they started to climb a bit. All this time she was taking Keppra, which didn’t seem to be helping. The neurologist had us increase the dose for about 3 weeks, and the myoclonics only increased. For 1 week we tried a lower dose of Keppra, as we had read and heard from a neurologist friend (that’s handy–yay for Dr. Amanda Diamond!) that Keppra can aggravate myoclonics for some individuals, even though it was approved as a treatment for myoclonic epilepsy.

It was a frustrating time. The neurologists couldn’t tell us much of anything about a diagnosis or prognosis. That’s the crazy thing about epilepsy: we can’t see inside the brain, and we just have to wait and see how it develops. At one point Dr. Koch said in passing, “it seems like she has juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, but that doesn’t usually happen until around 8 years old.” That was Nora, always doing everything early.

We could also experiment with various drugs to see what happened. We felt like we could only throw a drug at it and wait awhile, then if it didn’t seem to be working, they would say: “Then increase the dose. Still not working? Increase the dose. Still not working? Decrease the dose? Still not working? Different medication…” Our record keeping began in earnest to figure out what was going on with Nora.

After persisting with Keppra for about a month, we switched to valporic acid, brand name Depokote, which is considered the best choice for myoclonic epilepsy. It took about 2 more weeks to completely wean her off of Keppra and build up to the full dose of Depokote, and by the end of those 2 weeks we had amazing results. She was having 7-13 myoclonics per day in early October. Then, the drop:

  • 10/11: 13 seizures
  • 10/12: 7 seizures
  • 10/13: 4 seizures
  • 10/14: 2 seizures
  • 10/15: 1 seizure
  • 10/16: 0

Then she hovered around 1-2 per day for about a week, only on a moderate dose of Depokote. We didn’t know it at the time, but these drugs can have a “honeymoon” effect: they start working right away, then the brain gets used to it and it wears off. We tried a higher dose, but still her seizures kept increasing, leveling, and increasing. During that time we had also started reading about diet approaches and fooled around with a low glycemic index approach to keeping her blood sugar level. We were not counting carbs, just cutting out sugar and feeding her regularly to keep her blood sugar stable. Although we didn’t know if we were getting results from the diet, Nora’s mood seemed better overall.

However, Nora slowly started having more and more seizures again gradually. We could see that the Depokote was probably not aggravating her myoclonic seizures, as we suspected with the Keppra, but it was not helping her either.

To continue the story from here, in the blog I will reproduce some email updates that I sent to friends and family, explaining Nora’s testing, the doctor’s opinions, and our transition to a diet approach. They are posted in order with the date noted; go to the oldest posts and read in chronological order. You can also choose the “Nora’s History” category from the right-hand menu to see only the posts about her progress.

37 Responses to Nora’s Epilepsy Story

  1. Angela Black says:

    I just came across your website. I haven’t had the chance to read all of Nora’s story, but did just want to ask if she’d been tested for a mutation of PCDH19. There is a lot of overlap in the history of kids with SCN1A mutations and PCDH19. PCDH19 tends to only affect females.

    My daughter has Dravet syndrome with a mutation of SCN1A and is on the modified Atkins diet (spent 3 years on full keto). I am on the board of Dravet.org. You probably already know that Dravet syndrome is a clinical diagnosis that is only confirmed by genetic testing. Up to 20% of kids with Dravet will test negative for a mutation. However, I see that Nora was about 2 when she first had a seizure, which is quite late for Dravet.
    I wish you all the best in your quest for a diagnosis and treatment for Nora.

    Sincerely,
    Angela Black

    I wish you

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Thank you, Angela. We will look into the PCDH19 gene and ask Nora’s doctor. I don’t recall that it was mentioned, but it was certainly not on the top of a list. He was very interested in the range of outcomes for people with the SCN1A mutation, with Nora on the very mild end if she had it. He seemed skeptical about doing any more genetic testing (he was very focused on SCN1A), but we will bring it up at our next appointments.

      I am glad that your daughter was able to move to a less restrictive diet. Thank you for your kind words and work.

  2. ian says:

    I agree with Angela. Dr. Koch is a great doctor, and it’s smart of him to have tested Nora for SCN1a first, since that’s the most common identifiable cause of seizures like hers. But probably the case that there is an answer buried in the DNA blueprint somewhere, and it’s just a matter of whether or not it can be uncovered.

    PCDH19 is a possibility, as is SCN2a, SCN1b, GABRG2, GABRD, and (more recently) SCN8a.

    Oh, and one more detail: make sure the SCN1a testing included both sequencing and deletion testing.

  3. I just found your blog this morning (and between breakfast preps., taking kids to school and the myriad of other tasks I have been reading Nora’s story…I love her name, btw!) My son, Sam (who is 10) is 10 weeks seizure free today. I am almost afraid to write it. He is newly diagnosed with a primary generalized seizure disorder and our neurologist suggested that we wait on meds and try the Modified Adkins verson of the Ketogenic diet as a 1st line of treatment (which is very rare I understand.) The diet has its challenges but seems to be working well for Sam. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It helps me so very much to read other families experiences and know that we aren’t alone. Have a great weekend!

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      I’m glad to hear that Sam seems to be responding well to the diet. It’s amazing, isn’t it? As you read, we also started on MAD and moved to a stricter keto diet because she seemed to be doing better. I hope Sam continues to do well on the MAD diet. And I know what you mean about not wanting to say “seizure free”–we have gotten superstitious about too (knock on wood, throw salt, etc.)

      I hate to say it, but there will be set backs. And sometimes you don’t know why. It’s frustrating, but trust that if the diet works, it works. It’s great that your neurologist suggested it right away. I’m happy that we only went though 2 drugs; there are stories of families that go through 10. How horrible.

      Keep at it! Check out all of our recipes! It really helps to have something that is bread-like, even for the texture. I will keep posting recipes as I make them.

      • Edy Burel Choate says:

        Christy,
        I have admired you and your husband, Ted for over a year now. You both remind me so much of my own partnership with my husband, Jeremy. I am an oncology nurse at Emory University in Atlanta, GA and he is a Senior Manufacturing Controls Engineer at OPTIMedical. He is an amazing dad to our boys also, like Ted, has developed a program for us to use while Charlie Luke is on the keto diet.
        I do not know why it has taken me so long to write you and thank you from deep within my soul for all that you have blogged, especially your recipes and just your day to day experiences in such detail.
        My son, Charlie Luke, was dx’d with epilepsy the day before his 2nd birthday, March 5th 2013. We still do not have an official diagnosis but his neuro/epileptologist- Dr. Flamini is leaning towards Doose Syndrome which the keto diet has “cured” the majority of the cases if implemented versus antiepileptic drugs therapy.
        Charlie Luke started out having very mild head drops to full blown drop attacks that came on in a fury! It has been such an incredibly scary time in all of our lives. When I witnessed his arms flailing up in combination with the head drop, I instinctively knew that my first born had epilepsy. Sad, but very true. I researched for days and went into the neuro’s office screaming keto diet, lol. With much coaxing, we tried and failed 3 drugs and now, after 9 months of grueling tweaking of the diet- my Charlie Luke has been (I am afraid to say it too) has been seizure free for over 5 months!!! Once he was weaned off all meds, Keppra, Klonopin and Onfi, he has now started to develop at a nice constant pace. He has been significantly delayed since the seizures began. Was Nora?
        I just wanted to thank you and appreciate you for all that you do. You are SUCH a good mama, my friend and my inspiration. There will be many jewels on your crown, xoxo
        E’dy Burel Choate

        • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

          Thank you for your kind words, E’dy. And good job to you! Congratulations on 5 months seizure free! I know how you feel–holding your breath and don’t want to jinx it! Hearing other parents’ stories is an inspiration to me and I was so thankful for other parent blogs that we wanted to keep spreading the word too. I’m so thankful to have been able to reach out to others and help other kids and parents.

          Nora didn’t seem to be significantly delayed, but we also didn’t spend too much time with her on drugs and she was not in preschool at the time so we weren’t really measuring development against other kids or academic learning. We were just so focused on the seizures and not seeing any regression, and thankfully she didn’t seem to regress at all. If she had been having lots of myoclonics in an academic setting I’m sure she would have had difficulty progressing, which is what I’ve heard from other parents of kids with myoclonics. She doesn’t have Doose though because she never had drops, so no one really knew what to expect, only waiting and watching. We have thrilled that she is on track or beyond now, reading above her grade level and loving 1st grade.

          You and your husband have saved your little Charlie Luke too and have so much to be proud of. Thank you for writing and spreading your inspiration too! It’s possible to beat epilepsy!

          Christy

  4. Krischelle Page says:

    Hello Christy,

    Wow… I was just directed to your blog by a Modified Atkins yahoo forum… and I can’t believe it, reading Nora’s story is like looking into a mirror! I have never met or heard of anyone who is experiencing what we are…

    We have 6 year old identical twin girls. Both our girls have been diagnosed with JME… our girls haven’t had TC seizures but started with Myclonic Jerks at the age of 18 months and it took another 18 months for a diagnosis. Unfortunately, like you said most kids with JME start their seizures at about 8 years of age, so to see toddlers with this diagnosis is rare. Only one of our girls has had a tonic seizure to date. In fact, we got to see a professor last year and she explained that the girls were so rare that there is no ‘syndrome’ associated with their diagnosis. My girls are extremely photosensitive and often ‘self induce’ a seizure. All the tests have come back normal, the only thing left to do is gene sequencing which should be done in the next 12 months or so. This is being done through a research team here in Australia, who are looking into our families as their is a strong history of migraine and another case of epilepsy in the family (which is not uncommon with JME).

    We have been on the medication roundabout, without success, in fact they went from 6 seizures per day to 130 per day. We started MAD in October 2011 and have success in the range of 80-90% and as you said it can be a bit hit and miss with MAD.

    I am so glad I have found your blog and would love to chat more.

    I look forward to reading through your past posts.

    Krischelle

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Hi Krischelle,

      I would really like to talk with you more about the diagnosis issue too. If you think MAD is helping, they say that moving to a higher ratio is like increasing the dose and you might get better seizure control. That was our approach, but it seems that doctors in different parts of the world are giving different advice. I would think about it if I were you though. There are so many ways to make this diet palatable now.

      Keep us updated and be in touch. We will see Nora’s doctor again on Friday for her 3 month check up, so hopefully it’s all good news still but I want to push him more on the diagnosis and possibly doing more genetic tests.

      Christy

      P.S., Sorry for the late response. I was away from home for a few days for a meeting and fell behind!

  5. Danielle says:

    I stumbled upon your website today, looking for recipes for the MAD diet. We placed our son on the diet three months ago, and I am trying to convince my husband to do the full blown keto diet. We are down to 2-4 seizures a day, compared to 40-75 a day. Down from four medications to one. Our family also went completely organic, natural with our foods, which seemed to help the MAD diet outcomes even greater.

    Thanks for your website. It is inspirational.

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Congratulations Danielle! We definitely found that increasing the diet ratio helped Nora. Now she is at 3.5:1 and 7 months seizure free, and drug free! Even small increases in the ratio could help, until you find the level that he needs. And the keto diet sounds very difficult and daunting when you start out. It helped me tremendously when I found other parents that are making it work–not only for seizure freedom, but fitting it into the daily routine and having a happy, healthy eating kid. Look at our recipes, go to http://www.ketocook.com (and see their cookbook, if you haven’t yet). It helps to have full information about what is possible when deciding whether to go with a stricter diet. From our experience, it’s been a wonderful therapy for Nora and very doable.

      As I type, I’m finishing some baking for Nora–fiber rolls (recipe on the blog) and snickerdoodles (from http://www.ketocook.com)!

  6. Rebecca Gibson says:

    Greetings from down under – Australia! My son aged 10 sounds like he has had a similar story to Nora – started with TCs and developed Myoclonics at around 4 yo. The TCs are controlled by meds but the myoclonics are just increasing both in number and severity as he is getting bigger. We are about to start the MAD diet in Feb, so I am very excited to have found your site! Thankyou so much for all your hard work on this site – I will be following your progress with Nora with much interest! As I saw on a previous post, you are an inspiration!
    Rebecca

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Good luck Rebecca, I sure hope it helps. Remember that it’s really hard to get started, for both you and your son, but if you see it through it can be a life changer. I’m happy to answer questions and provide support.

      There is another family from Australia that we have been in touch with, twin girls with a similar story. We could try to put you all in touch with each other (privately, off-blog). Our doctors are trying to work with their doctors to see if there is some genetic similarity underlying this, because Nora has been quite a mystery to all of the smart doctors here. It’s good to not feel so alone.

  7. Rachel says:

    I’m so happy I found this website with some wonderful ketogenic recipes!

    My daughter is 3, diagnosed with Myoclonic Epilepsy when she was a little over 2. We’ve been battling it now for 18 months and turning to the Ketogenic diet since medications aren’t working.

    She has also been re-diagnosed as Myoclonic-Astatic Epilepsy, a developmental degenerative form of epilepsy if we can’t get the seizures controlled, which can be difficult with this form of epilepsy.

    She went from having myoclonic jerks and absance seizures, to having drop seizures and clonics (we haven’t had a full tonic-clonic)

    She is very sensitive to medications. She’s highly allergic to Depakote (broke out in hives at a 1/3 of the dose), she’s currently on Keppra, but any higher than 5ml twice a day and her personality becomes volatile, aggressive, violent and depressive even with 50mg of B6. We tried Zonegran for a month and within 3 weeks at a 1/3 of the full dose, she began showing signs of high anxiety. At 4 weeks, her dosage was increased from 1ml to 1.5ml twice a day and she began to have full blown panic attacks to where you couldn’t even move 2 feet away without her either hyperventilating or breaking down in a panic.

    So within the next month or two, we’ll start the Keto diet.

    How do you handle Halloween on the Keto diet? Does she just not go?

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Hi Rachel. Sorry to hear about your experience, that’s a terrible run. I hope the diet works so much better for your girl, it’s been amazing for Nora.

      We have a blog post about Halloween: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/modifiedketogenicdietforepilepsy/2012/11/04/halloween-treats/

      Nora has been amazing throughout all of this. She has made the diet a part of her identity. That doesn’t mean that it is not hard for her sometimes, but she completely understands that she has diet limitations and uses it as part of what makes her special. We also talk about how lots of people, almost everyone, has some diet issue–gluten-free, I can’t eat eggs, allergies, etc. Compliance is really the key to making the diet manageable. It will be hard at first, but a good attitude by everyone is really important.

      Keep us updated on your progress and good luck.

  8. Lara says:

    Hi Christy, I’ve been reading your site for a while now because your story sounds like ours. My son 2.5 at the time had a tonic clonic on Dec 26, 2012. We were sent home, saying it was a fluke. Then three weeks later the myoclonics started. He is now 38 months old, so we’ve been at this for a little over 7 months. We started on Keppra which didn’t really seem to do much – maybe keep the TCs away – but we will never know. His myos kept coming everyday at a fluctuating rate – 10 on a bay day and 1 on a good day. It was really random. We started Depakote and started to see the honeymoon thing go on – 4-5 days of zero, then they crept back up. We have never gotten into the double digits (unless we’ve missed a bunch but this is pretty consistent even on the days when we are with him all day). We weaned Keppra and are still on a pretty high level of Depakote with the L Carnitine. He tolerates is fine and is developmentally right on track, which is great – but we do not have that seizure freedom. For example, today he had 1 at breakfast – and the three days prioir all zeros.

    Docs want us to add Zonegran, and we are holding off and instead attending a Keto Clinic this month at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia to learn about MAD. We think that might be a good starting point for us. We are also waiting for some genetic tests to come back. There isn’t an obvious reason for his E. I love your recipes. We only have one son, and I love to cook, so I am not too worried about managing that part, I am more worried that he’ll refuse it and that someone at daycare will give him a cupcake (even if we tell them not to). I just wanted to reach out to say hello and your daughter is a doll, congrats on all of the hard work.

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Hi Lara,

      Our stories do sound very similar. Our doctor keep saying that myoclonics paired with normal development is so very rare. He is willing to do some genetic studies if he can find enough kids with similar stories and coordinate with the other doctors. I know that CHOP has a great keto program and great support. I emailed with one of the nurses there who wrote a paper on their parent support system.

      I think you are doing the right thing. Once a kid has failed 2 drugs, it’s statistically more likely that the diet will work rather than another medication. They suggested Zonegran for Nora too and I’m so thankful that we started with the diet first, because we saw the results very quickly and didn’t have to suffer through another wean on-wean off period of something that didn’t work.

      Compliance is really on the minds of everyone who does the diet, because it’s the most likely reason for failure. We took Nora out of daycare and hired a nanny (not full time, but for when I had to work), but I know that doesn’t fit everyone’s budget. We made it work because we were so invested in making sure that there were no mistakes on the diet in the beginning. But since then she has gone to some childcare programs and we have a meeting and clearly communicate her needs and give friendly reminders. Nora starts kindergarten in the fall, so that’s another whole world of communication and social pressure for her!

      Keep up the good work for your little guy. It’s so worth it. The diet is a thousand times easier than counting seizures. I have some more recipes and posts waiting in the wings, it’s just hard to sit down and write in the summer!

      Stay in touch and let us know how you are doing,
      Christy

  9. Naomi says:

    Came across your blog and am so encouraged. My daughter was born December 2008 and was diagnosed with epilepsy just before her 3rd birthday. But had beenhaving seizures since 18 months. Her diagnosis has changed from absence epilepsy to myoclonic epilepsy to finally earlier this year myoclonic absence epilepsy which is less common. She has had eeg, mri, lumbar puncture and genetic testing. She has been on epilim, lamotrigine, keppra which we couldn’t get to dose on as she kept throwing up and finally topiramate which she is currently on. But none have worked. She used to have about 10 seizures a day but aas she gets older it’s now more like 30 a day. But they only last a second so she could be having lots more that go unnoticed. The most shes ever had was in August and had 89 that day. We have an appointment in Southampton, as we are from Sussex, UK. , next week. Not sure what to expect. Would love to get in touch if you could email me. Many thanks.

    • lu says:

      Hi there Naomi
      My daughter has myoclonic absences and we are just starting the keto diet. Have you tried it at all?

  10. Naomi says:

    ….continued. …
    Forgot to say how aggressive she is getting these last few months as we have reached maximum dosage. She gets quite frustrated, can forget what she is saying and also has just started school. I can’t wait to get her off meds and get my little girl back. Also, we call her seizures ‘body hiccups’ as that is totally what they are and is easier and gentler for kids to understand. Her eyes glaze over and her body jolts. Only top half and doesn’t fall back. But if holding cup she will spilly contents but not drop the cup as her muscles spasms so actually grips with it. Would love to hear from you. Your blog is amazing and just the support I will need if we have to start the keto diet in the near future. We’ll see what is said at appointment next week.

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Hi Naomi,

      I know how you feel, and I have a lot of hope that the diet will help your daughter. I’d be happy to answer any of your questions, so I will send you an email. With that history, I would strongly recommend trying the diet. If it helps, you will know, even if it doesn’t eliminate all seizures right away. Then you can start reducing meds and getting your little girl back.

      I know that they have great resources in the UK and you get a lot of benefits from your health care, which we don’t get even with private insurance in the US. You also have a great nonprofit dedicated to diet therapy in the UK, Matthew’s Friends: http://www.matthewsfriends.org/. If you go to their website you will see that the global ketogenic diet conference is in Liverpool next year! I went to the one in Chicago in 2012 and it was wonderful. I’m probably not making it to Liverpool, as much as I would love to go.

      All the best,
      Christy

  11. Tonya says:

    My son is 3yrs 9mo and one random morning on the way to daycare he began to have his first seizure. Its been a roller coaster ever since, he had one the next day same time so they started him on keppra, he did ok for 3 days then they came at us again on wed, then thurs he started having clusters, he was admitted and given many meds and released a couple days later. We got home from the hospital sat afternoon and sunday morning he had 5 more within 2 hrs. Hes now on keppra and topimax and had 5 days worth clomasphan. no history of this in our family, all test are coming back good.. what-else can we try??? Tired mama desprite for answers and help for my little guy.

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      I’m so sorry Tonya. we all know how you are feeling right now, looking for answers and help.

      The ketogenic diet is now considered the tertiary treatment for childhood epilepsy. So if 2 medications have failed, the diet has a better chance of success than a third drug. “Most experts say the diet is worth trying when two or more medications have failed to control seizures, or when medications cause side effects that are having a harmful effect on a child’s life.” See this link: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/treatment/ketogenicdiet/index.cfm?gclid=CPObn7Gz07sCFQ1yQgod6j4AZw

      Some pediatric neurologists are more supportive of the diet than others. If you are interested in trying the diet, talk to your son’s doctor. If s/he is not supportive, ask if there is a neurologist on staff who has experience with the diet or is supervising other kids on the diet and ask to see that doc. If your medical center doesn’t have it, do some research and find out the closest place with a keto diet center. There are several around the country. I know it’s no fun to travel for medical attention, but I’ve talked to several parents here in Oregon who have kids at medical centers that do the diet, but do not get the kind of expertise and support that we get at OHSU. Reach out to parents in your area to get advice on the right doctor, if you really want to try it. And keep reading about success stories. You have to have hope too!

      All our best, please let us know how it goes.

  12. Jackie Jones says:

    Thank you for sharing Nora’s story. I am sorry I haven’t had time to read all of your posts, and you may have this information on your blog already, but have you received a final type of epilepsy diagnosis? My 8 year old has been diagnosed by a pediatric neuro as having what she calls myoclonic epilepsy similar to jme. She has said she doesn’t know whether it is really jme as she feels the seizures starting at age 7 is young, and they happened throughout the day. We’ll be seeing the neuro again along with an epitologist (sp?) in June. His seizures after 2 months of slowly increasing Depakote (generic) have finally stopped (on 10 days now, hope I’m not breaking the epilepsy hates you rule). So, I was wondering if Nora’s docs have settled on jme as a diagnosis for her or if there is another diagnosis. thanks again, Jackie

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Hi Jackie,

      Nora’s diagnosis seems to be only “benign myoclonic epilepsy.” When we were still struggling with seizure, drugs and seeing her previous neurologist, he once said that this really looks like JME, except she’s way too young, only 3. She is still really a mystery. Only a few other families we know of have experienced something like JME at such a young age, so they don’t really have a diagnosis, and the problem with that, of course, is that there is no prognosis. As one doc said, we just have to wait and see what Nora presents as she continues to develop.

      Thankfully, it has been benign, meaning that she has had no other cognitive or physical developmental problems. We keep hoping to stay on that path.

      I’m glad that Depakote is working for your son and hope it continues to work. We had a similar experience, except that it seemed to work for awhile until the “honeymoon” period wore off. Remember that the diet is another very promising option of 2 drugs fail.

      Thinking of your, and please keep in touch if you need anything.
      Christy

  13. Anja Polisak says:

    We are still struggling through the diet with some mistakes and breakthrough seizures. I am currently trying to get more organized and streamline our system. It occurred to me that I saw on your blog. .. when I read it months and months ago.. graphs that you used to track Nora’s seizures and various variables. I was wondering if you would be willing to send me a template of that so that I could attempt to keep track of all the variables. Right now my brain is trying to do that I it’s own and it is sometimes overwhelming. Feel free to contact my email directly if you would like to further discuss. I understand there may be a proprietary concern… But I thought it would be worth a try.

    Also. .. I hope and pray that your wean is going well.

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Hi Anja,

      I’m sorry to hear that you are still struggling. Remind me if you are doing MAD now or on a higher ketogenic diet ratio (something over 2:1 that you are tracking with the Ketocalculator through the Charlie Foundation and weighing on a gram scale).

      Ted did all of the tracking in an Excel file, so I will talk to him about that option and email you if you can use that format. We just made it up ourselves. In the time since we were tracking seizures, the Charlie Foundation posted some information about this Seizure Tracker tool, which can be used online or with an app: https://www.seizuretracker.com/

      If you can check out some of these things and let me know if you still want our stuff, I can email you. I thought about emailing but decided that posting the Seizure Tracker information might be useful to others too. I don’t think there was such a thing a few years ago when we were keeping track. We aren’t weaning yet, but will start in about 1 more month.

      Christy

  14. Anja Polisak says:

    Also I ‘re watched the video of Nora’s myoclonic seizure and it looks identical to Declan’s. We are in Ottawa. His tentative diagnosis (doctor is the head of neurology at CHEO.. But she seems like she is reserving the right to change that diagnosis. . I would call it a working hypothesis).. is atypical benign partial epilepsy, also called Pseudo Lennox. You helped me start the diet and I thank you so much for your blog. It really helps! !!!!

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Interesting. Is that diagnosis based on EEG patterns as well? I think they found that Nora’s EEGs didn’t show any partial activity. I’ve never seen reference to a pseudo Lennox before, but they were kind of calling Nora a psuedo-JME for a while (unofficially) because she was far too young for it but otherwise seemed consistent with JME.

  15. Elizabeth Zelenak says:

    I probably have the oldest “child” on this list. Ryan is 24 and our grandson who we have raised since he was three. Seizures didn’t start until 12 and were totally controlled with tegretol for 10 years. Then two years ago he started having drop attacks, atonic seizures. In the past two years he has been on tegretol, topimax, banzel, onfi, zonegran, and I can’t remember what else. Currently he is on tegretol, banzel, onfi and Ativan for cluster seizures. He has a diagnosis of developmental brain malformation and seizure disorder is called Lenox gastau syndrome which is very difficult to control. AED meds increase aggressive behaviors and we are beside ourselves. Neurologist suggested months ago ketogenic diet but we thought it would be impossible. He demands fries and ice cream and gets aggressive when denied. But seizures are increasing and he has had lots of falls with lacerations. I have no idea what 2:1 , 3:1 means and hope to learn from this website. Anyone else in my boat?

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I don’t think we are in contact with anyone who is using a ketogenic diet for an adult, but I know that it is possible. You are in a tough boat. Of the stories that I have heard, it is hardest as people get older. I would as your doctor about starting slow, like trying the Modified Atkins Diet (also known as MAD) to see if it has any affect, then make it more strict if you are seeing some results. That’s what we did with Nora, and for an adult a slower transition might be more acceptable.

      Briefly, 2:1 or 3:1 is the ratio of fat to carbs plus protein in a food or meal. For example, 2:1 is 2 grams of fat for every 1 gram of carb+protein in a meal. Some foods are good for a ketogenic diet in their natural state. If you look at a nutrition label, you will see that cream cheese is often over 2:1 and sometimes over 3:1, depending on the brand. Avocados are over 3:1. So it doesn’t take elaborate meal planning to get started. The key to begin is to cut out sugars and refined carbohydrates, like anything with flour in it.

      French friends and ice cream are fatty, but the problem is that they are carby too. You can make a version of french fries with turnips but it will take a little getting used to (and hopefully he likes mayo or sour cream to dip them!) I make ice cream for Nora, but it is without sugar so it is not smooth and scoopable. I’ve been making a simple ice cream of equal parts (in grams) strawberries and cream, mashing them together, then freezing for about 1 hour. If you mix it up before it is frozen solid it is good. But an adult will know the difference and I’m sure it will be a hard transition for him. I know that Lenox Gasau Syndrome is successfully treated with the ketogenic diet, but I think you would have to think carefully about whether Ryan would accept it, or what strategies you can use to make it acceptable for him. If he doesn’t eat the food or cheats, then it won’t be therapeutic. You know him best, and hopefully you can get support from others who have been down this road to help with strategies. Doctors and dietitians can help you with ratios and meal planning, but it won’t work if he doesn’t eat it every day, every meal.

      For more support I suggest going to the Charlie Foundation. Their support forum is here: http://www.charliefoundation.org/engage/engage-2/keto-support-line. You will find other resources on their website too.

      Good luck and we are happy to answer any other questions that you have.

      Christy

    • Teresa says:

      We have a daughter who is 13 going on 14 with the same syndrome. We have been on a long list of meds too. We just started the MADS diet along with Banzel and keppra. We just had our second week with only 2 seizures. before that there were 10 or more a day then we went down to 4 to 6 and then 2 to 3 then all of a sudden we hit a seizure free day and had up to 4 seizure free days in a row.
      Since the seizures and the meds it has made our daughter more aggressive when she can’t get what she wants. Since we finally got to the seizure free days there are no more fights. She see the benefit of the diet because she is able to function and do things besides sit on the couch.
      The diet is worth a try.

      • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

        Congratulations Teresa. We also thought that once the diet was working and seizures slowed or stopped, we saw much better behavior too. I hope they are planning on weaning drugs once the diet seems to be working so well and you get more and more seizure free days. Good luck and keep up the good work!

  16. Anja Polisak says:

    Sorry for the late reply. . His eeg has 3hz poly spike wave mainly as he gets drowsy and then a lot more after falling asleep. No background slowing. Something else the meteorologist said. Was that it was happening in both sides at the same time. . But was not generalized. .she said it may all appear that way because it was simultaneous.

    We went 27 days without and now he is having them again. Mistakes are perhaps the problem. I keep working on streamlining systems.
    In the beginning i didn’t want to disrupt his school schedule to much. We do breakfast at 6:15 and then doesn’t have lunch until 11 (on a weekend new would have a snack by 10.. then lunch at 12:30) and then be has his snack afterwards at 1:45… .. then another snack at 4.. dinner at 6). Although the doctors approved this idea. . I think out it may be time to disrupt his school schedule a bit and space them out more evenly.

    Wean still going well. I’m over the moon for you guys

    • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

      Hi Anja, sorry to hear that breakthroughs are happening again, but that does happen. We got a lot more consistency when Nora ate at about the same time every day and lots of snacks. She still eats 6 times a day, 3 meals and 3 snacks. We don’t keep the carbs exactly the same from meal to meal, but we keep the ratio the same and spread the carbs out over the day. She eats snack with her class at school, but it is at a reasonable time that works for the class too.

      The wean is still going well. I really should post about it again soon.

      Keep at it. If it works for 27 days, it is working and worth it! All of our best.
      Christy

      • Anja Polisak says:

        I meant neurologist of course. . Not meteorologist. . Lol

        Declan is doing tons better.. he is on his way. I would say another big change in the last year. . Is me. . Being happier. . Laughing easier again. . Not as obsessed with all things seizure and diet related. Feeling able to give my other child and husband the attention they deserve.

        • Christy Anderson Brekken says:

          Hi Anja, that is the best comment I’ve seen in a long time :)

          It really is about quality of life, Declan’s life and for each your family members. Well done, keep at it and keep in touch.

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