Epilepsy conference explores medical advances

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A disorder that affects nearly three million people in the U.S. was put on display Saturday in Grand Rapids.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan met for its second annual Epilepsy Innovation Conference.

Doctors and keynote speakers from across the country detailed the latest advances in the medical field and new treatment options for those who have epileptic seizures.

Epilepsy is caused by a brief and unprovoked disturbance in the electrical activity in the brain. These disturbances or seizures can be dangerous and even deadly if left untreated.

Brianna Romines, president of The Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan,  says the goal of the conference is to draw attention to the fourth most common neurological disorder in the country.

“It’s really an opportunity for us to spotlight all of the incredible things happening in the medical arena here in West Michigan and really in the entire state as well,” Romines said. “More than that though, what we need is more innovation, more investment, more treatment options and we’re really thrilled to be spotlighting some of those today.”

Some of those treatment options, like intuitive implant technology that recognizes the onset of a seizure and reacts to counter, were developed at Grand Rapid’s medical mile.

Dr. Konstantin Elisevich, co-chair department of clinical neuroscience and chief division of neurosurgery for Spectrum Health Medical Group, says there’s a lot to be excited about in the world of epilepsy treatment.

“Spectrum has a full armament of devices, both on the investigational side and on the therapeutic side to tackle the problems that come with these seizures,” Elisevish said. “Our dedicated, comprehensive, epilepsy centers are capable not only of housing all the technological advancements to treat epilepsy but also rising above that and leading the way in new research.”

About 150,000 new cases are diagnosed every year in the U.S., according to the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan.

Kurt Eichenwald, New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, says a line needs to be drawn now to learn more about the disorder to prevent others from developing it.

“It’s not contagious,” Eichenwald said. “Just one of the many stigmas surrounding the disorder. We need to recognize that we have to talk. We have to start confronting this.”

In his book, “A Mind Unraveled,” Eichenwald explains the negative impact the disorder had on his life, and how he used his experience as fuel.

“I decided to write the book to let people know the difficulty, the reality of what it’s like to live with epilepsy, about the challenges that come and about the fact that you know we can accomplish what we want to,” Eichenwald said. “No matter how bad it gets, you can still have a life. There are a lot of people out there telling you that’s not true, and they’re wrong.”

A life where seizures can be easier maintained has been a dream of Laine Richards’ since she was 12.

“I definitely didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get to almost seizure free,” Richards said. “I like 33% of the country am probably never going to get full seizure control, but what I do, do to help is take medication five times a day. I have to go to sleep on time. I have to do my best to kind of stay away from stress and I take CBD oil.”

The Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan says cannabidiol, or CBD, as a science can be used as a treatment for epilepsy. This development and others they hope will lead the charge to a seizure free Michigan.

“We are on the right track,” Elisevich said. “We are on the right track, and we are at the forefront.”

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