Josh Mahler had always been healthy until 2008, when he began having seizures.
Over time, the seizures, known as “intractable” seizures because they were difficult to control even with medication, became increasingly disruptive for the Wayne, New Jersey teenager. He could study for hours, only to have everything he memorized wiped out with a single seizure. He suffered bumps and bruises from seizures he had on the basketball court or while riding his bike.
“We tried upwards of ten different medications with varying dosages and combinations, and there was no relief,” says his mother Beth, a social worker. “The medications were not only not helping, but Josh's seizures were escalating in frequency and duration.”
The family struggled to keep life normal for their oldest son, who has two younger siblings. Josh continued going to school, played soccer and basketball, and even went skiing and snowboarding. But the prospect of a seizure haunted them.
By 2010, Josh was having as many as 10 seizures a day. After each episode, Josh was losing his ability to speak for an hour or two. The family began to consider brain surgery. But there was no guarantee that it would help, and there was a chance that Josh’s speech and cognitive processes could be affected.
The alternative was equally disturbing. Without treatment, Josh would continue to have life-disrupting seizures that put him at risk for injuries and changes in cognitive functioning.
Fortunately, a family connection brought the Mahlers north to Albany Med, where neurologist Timothy Lynch, MD, took over his care. When considering surgery for epilepsy, Albany Med physicians conduct a complex brain mapping process where the critical areas of the brain that control language and memory, as well as the areas causing the seizures, are identified and discussed in a mandatory multidisciplinary conference to assess the benefits and safety of such surgery.
Because the area of Josh’s brain causing his seizures was located so close to the part of the brain responsible for controlling his speech and language, he underwent two surgeries. The first helped decrease his seizures, but the second time, surgeons were more aggressive and removed even more of the epileptic foci.
Since his most recent surgery, Josh has had no seizures and has cut back his medications. Josh is also having therapy to correct changes in his speech, a small price to pay. “The recovery is hard, but the surgery works,” he says. “I’m just happy about being seizure free.”
Even though the family lives closer to hospitals in New York City, they do not mind in the least the drive back to Albany Med for follow-up appointments. “The physicians there gave Josh his normal life back. We wouldn’t go anywhere else.”