Nothing seemed to help Erika Akers, a metro Detroit woman with epilepsy. She'd seen nine neurologists and tried a variety of medication but was still having more than a dozen seizures a day.
But she eventually did find relief from a seemingly drastic treatment - deep brain stimulation, which meant doctors changed the wiring in her brain.
Erika's struggle with seizures and epilepsy started at the age of 23.
"I was in the middle of a mall and just had a grand mal seizure," she says. Soon she was having 18 seizures a day.
Epilepsy, which is a disorder characterized by unpredictable seizures, often leaves doctors and patients wondering about the cause and the treatment, which usually starts with medication.
"The reality is is that most patients, like 70 percent of people with epilepsy, are well controlled with medications. That's always the first line of treatment," says Henry Ford Health neurosurgeon Dr. Ellen Air.
"But when it turned out that Erika's seizures were not able to be controlled, we took pictures of her brain and saw that she had an area in what's called the temporal lobe that had shrunken down and scarred, and seemed to be the cause of her seizures. So her first treatment actually was to have that part of the brain removed."
Dr. Air was hopeful brain surgery would stop Erika's seizures. But they returned. So she decided deep brain stimulation might work to break up the electrical circuit.
"We put electrodes into a deep structure in the brain," Dr. Air says. "I think of it a little bit more like a circuit breaker. You know, the circuit breaker is trying to make sure that an abnormal firing of the wiring in your house doesn't go crazy."
And it's working.
Erika is a busy mom of a 7-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter. It's been one year since she started deep brain stimulation, and 36-year-old Erika feels like a different person.
"I haven't had to worry about having a seizure in the middle of the sidewalk, or going to the store and having to worry about falling out from having a grand mal seizure," he says with a big smile.
Deep brain stimulation is a relatively new treatment in treating epilepsy, but it's gaining in popularity.
You can get more information on epilepsy treatment on Henry Ford's website.