‘The best feeling in the world’

Everett Oostveen, 6, lived with epileptic seizures for a lot of his younger life.

They’d occur as much as 10 instances a day, generally highly effective sufficient to knock him off his toes.

Treatment did little to assist. And the seizures worsened.

“Throughout one, he cut up his backside lip broad open, requiring stitches,” Nick Oostveen, his father, mentioned.

His seizures had been a part of his difficult medical historical past: He was born with congenital coronary heart defects that required surgical procedure as a new child, and he suffered a stroke at seven months that required mind surgical procedure. Medical doctors then identified him with epilepsy.

In the end, Angel Hernandez, MD, division chief for pediatric neurology at Corewell Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, identified Everett with intractable—or medication-resistant—epilepsy.

The physician really helpful a hemispherectomy, a uncommon mind surgical procedure that will take away one of many hemispheres of the mind, making it non-functional.

The surgical procedure’s success depends on realizing precisely which space of the mind is inflicting the seizures. In 2019, testing had discovered the positioning within the left hemisphere of Everett’s mind.

The outcomes had a 95% accuracy fee.

Nick and his spouse, Danielle, remained involved.

“Danielle and I simply felt like 95% wasn’t ok,” Nick mentioned. “Not if we had been going to remove the entire left hemisphere of his mind for the remainder of his life.”

So the Oostveens tabled the thought.

Even because the seizures worsened, Everett continued to smile and stay upbeat, at all times keen to dispense keen hugs to household and pals.

“Individuals usually describe him because the sweetest little boy they’ve ever met,” Danielle mentioned. “He’s the form of child who makes your day higher.”

Weighing choices

Everett had already been via a lifetime of procedures earlier than his first birthday.

Medical doctors had identified him with congenital heart defects in utero. He was born prematurely in fall 2016. At 7 days outdated, he underwent closed-heart hybrid surgical procedures.

He made good progress.

At 7 months outdated, nevertheless, he suffered a stroke, with a big mind bleed in the appropriate frontal lobe. He underwent brain surgery after which rested in an induced coma for every week on the kids’s hospital.

Weeks later, the household went dwelling to start the onerous work of restoration. The stroke had weakened Everett’s proper aspect, requiring fixed remedy.

Everett thrived, notching one therapeutic milestone after one other.

It amazed mother and father and therapists, whose hopes for Everett had initially been so guarded.

However quickly, his mother and father, of Hudsonville, Michigan, began noticing what they thought could be focal seizures, maybe eight to 10 instances a day.

“We didn’t know precisely what we had been ,” Danielle mentioned. “It could final for 30 seconds and he’d return to regular.”

Medical doctors started the method of discovering treatment that will management the seizures. Some labored a bit. None labored nicely sufficient.

There have been different choices, together with surgical procedure and the implantation of gadgets, in addition to dietary interventions such because the ketogenic weight loss program or a modified Atkins strategy.

However surgical procedure requires a posh decision-making course of.

“We’ve to undergo a number of pre-surgical evaluations to ascertain whether or not somebody is appropriate,” Dr. Hernandez mentioned.

Given Everett’s extreme seizures—and since he already suffered deficits from his stroke—docs deemed him a wonderful candidate for hemispherectomy.

It’s a frightening prospect, and Dr. Hernandez understands why any father or mother would hesitate.

The surgical procedure is uncommon. Separating the mind lobes renders one-half of the mind—the one inflicting the seizure exercise—completely nonfunctional.

As a result of the mind is ready to rewire itself with new circuitry, nevertheless, restoration may be exceptional.

“Kids’s brains are nonetheless rising and may rewire themselves with spectacular velocity, particularly earlier than age 10,” Dr. Hernandez mentioned.

Superior imaging

In early 2021, Dr. Hernandez excitedly advised the Oostveens about new know-how known as magnetoencephalography, or MEG, on the Jack H. Miller Magnetoencephalography Center.

The non-invasive mind mapping know-how exactly locates sources of epilepsy, enormously bettering the standard and effectiveness of pre-surgical evaluations.

Everett turned one of many first pediatric sufferers at Corewell Well being to endure an examination with this know-how.

“Everett was asleep for about 90 minutes,” Danielle mentioned. “The images confirmed his mind so clearly and the docs might pinpoint the realm in his mind that induced the seizures.”

The extremely superior imaging may be very correct.

This gave the Oostveens confidence to schedule Everett’s surgical procedure.

Whereas they knew there have been vital dangers with a hemispherectomy, it supplied Everett a robust probability of a seizure-free life. And so they knew surgeons had been positive concerning the location of the difficulty spot.

‘The sunshine got here again’

In August 2021, Everett underwent the hemispherectomy to take away the left aspect of his mind.

The Oostveens had realized concerning the dangers going into the process, they usually knew it might set Everett again, erasing beneficial properties he had made. However they hoped he would shortly recuperate and proceed his growth with out the debilitating seizures.

“We had already seen him be utterly paralyzed on his proper aspect,” Nick mentioned. “He had realized to crawl, then to stroll. He realized to make use of his proper arm. We thought we had been prepared.”

The weeks that adopted had been difficult, with setbacks in Everett’s motor abilities, communication and different areas.

He spent a couple of weeks at Mary Free Mattress Rehabilitation Hospital, recovering from the operation.

“In the future, we sat outdoors with him in a wheelchair,” Danielle mentioned. “We had labored so onerous to get Everett the place he was, with all of the intensive remedy from earlier mind surgical procedures.

“We couldn’t assist doubting ourselves,” she mentioned.

The care workforce urged them to be affected person.

“For sufferers of this sort of mind surgical procedure, it’s such as you bought run over by a automotive or a had a serious head harm,” Dr. Hernandez mentioned. “The mind is making an attempt to repair itself because it heals. And with Everett’s difficult historical past, it took an extended than anticipated.”

Every day, Danielle and Nick reminded one another to maintain their eyes on the massive image.

They hadn’t seen Everett have a single seizure for the reason that surgical procedure.

One morning, Nick made a humorous face—the form of dad antic that at all times bought a smile from Everett.

Everett’s proper aspect was nonetheless paralyzed, however Nick and Danielle noticed his left lip flip up in a smile.

“That second was large for us,” Nick mentioned. “The sunshine got here again to his eyes. We knew it was time to get again to work with him. And the extra we bought him shifting, the extra himself he turned.”

‘Again to being himself’

When Everett returned dwelling, he continued to enhance.


5 weeks after surgical procedure, he stunned his mother and father by taking steps throughout the lounge.

Eight months later, he might stroll. And in the present day, he’s studying to run.

Now 6, he’s thriving in school, assembly all of the objectives his therapists have set for him.

He hasn’t skilled a single seizure since surgical procedure and he doesn’t require any anti-seizure treatment. His growth is now additional alongside than earlier than the surgical procedure.

“These seizures had been holding him again,” Nick mentioned.

The Oostveens nonetheless aren’t positive what to anticipate in the long run. However Everett has proven he’s remarkably resilient, above all else.

“At one level, they advised us he would possibly by no means stroll,” Nick mentioned. “And he runs. He nonetheless doesn’t speak, however we’ve some ways to speak, together with an iPad in school.”

As of late, Everett is happiest when he’s working towards his objectives in bodily, occupational and speech remedy.

Within the years forward, he’ll ultimately require a number of coronary heart surgical procedures. However his household stays grateful for his progress—and for the care workforce members and know-how that helped make it attainable.

“It’s unbelievable to observe him develop,” Nick mentioned. “He’s again to being himself once more, after which some. It’s the perfect feeling on this planet.”


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