Kevin Volk was at a retirement party in 2004 when he passed out at the dinner table. More fainting spells ensued, and doctors told him he had syncope, a self-limited fainting condition that would get better in time. But when he started having seizures, Volk visited Albany Med’s department of neurology.
At 43, Volk was stunned to learn that he had epilepsy. Eventually, his seizures became so severe that they caused bradycardia, a slow heart rate. Doctors prohibited him from driving, and Volk relied on family and friends to shuttle him around town and to his job as manager for the state Senate’s accounts payable office.
For two years, medications controlled his seizures, but because he required such a high dose to achieve this, he experienced bothersome side effects including unsteadiness and double vision. “There was always in the back of my mind the question, ‘Is this going to be controlled?’” he says.
On his way to a haircut one day, Volk suffered a breakthrough seizure in a parking lot. Albany Med neurologist Dr. Matthew Murnane sent Volk to his colleague, neurologist Dr. Timothy Lynch, who suggested surgery.
In patients with epilepsy, surgery is sometimes an option if medications don’t control the seizures.
“Within two years, it is possible to identify if a patient will effectively respond to medication,” explains Dr. Anthony Ritaccio, who Volk met on Albany Med’s epilepsy monitoring unit prior to his surgery. “If a patient doesn’t respond, when a comprehensive brain mapping program is available, such as at Albany Medical Center, surgery presents a safe and effective cure for seizures.” Volk was intrigued.
The next step involved extensive pre-surgical assessment, including mapping of seizures, mapping of language and memory areas, and brain imaging to assess the benefit and safety of surgery.
On May 20, 2009, surgeons removed scar tissue on the right temporal lobe of his brain. Seven weeks later, Volk was back to work. Since his surgery, Volk, now 51, has been seizure-free. Best of all, he has cut back on his medications and dreams of the day he’ll be able to stop taking anything. “Now I’m on such a low dose I really don’t feel it anymore,” he says.