LYONS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and an Ionia County family says their daughter is back doing something she loves after battling the disease for years.
Back in April, 11-year-old Lily Pawlanta underwent what doctors have described as a risky surgery to help stop her recurring seizures.
Lily has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and medication-resistant epilepsy. Prior to her surgery, some of her seizures would last up to two hours, according to her mother, Mindy Pawlanta.
If you were to ask Lily what her favorite thing to do is, besides playing with her Barbies, she would probably say dance. Mindy Pawlanta said ever since her daughter started walking, it’s been something she loves to do.
“She was about 2 when she started dancing,” Mindy Pawlanta said.
In April, the family was forced to make a big decision.
“So we looked at Lily, and we saw that the left side of her brain was doing all of the work, and the right side was only causing seizures,” said Seth DeVries, MD, a pediatric neurologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Despite being prescribed medication after medication, nothing seemed to be working.
“It was scary,” Chris Pawlanta, Lily’s dad, said. “You’re maxed out, consistently maxed out on all of these different drugs, and it’s not doing everything that it’s supposed to do. And you always wonder what the next step is going to be.”
Then, the doctors told Lily and her family about another option: brain surgery. Surgeons would completely disconnect the right side of her brain.
“When we first started the testing, I was like, ‘No. No, you can do the testing, but I don’t think I will ever sign off on a surgery that sounds like you are cutting my child’s brain in half,'” Mindy Pawlanta said. “However, going through the entire thing, we started to see there wasn’t any other choice.”
“Basically, we sat down with the family, and I had asked them and spoke with them: ‘OK, this procedure is going to disconnect half of Lily’s brain … and as a result, there is the potential that she will lose the ability to walk and the ability to dance,'” DeVries said.
The family eventually decided to do it.
“The decision was made that the family and Lily would prefer to be seizure-free and not be able to walk, as opposed to being able to walk and continue to have seizures,” DeVries said. “So we went forward with the surgery, and it was a phenomenal success.”
When it comes to how Lily is doing today, her parents said she is back to dancing and doing great.
“She’s doing really good,” Mindy Pawlanta said. “We still see some of the smaller seizures, but where we used to see them multiple times a day, now it’s maybe once or twice a week.”
“Last time I saw Lily, she was actually walking better than she was before the surgery,” DeVries said.