From: Mayo Clinic News Network
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Before coming to Mayo Clinic, the epileptic seizures Denny Hinshaw had lived with for more than 10 years were eroding both his personal and professional life. Since Denny came to Mayo Clinic for care, however, that is all in the past.
Near the end of December 2018, Denny Hinshaw turned on the TV in his home in Temple, Texas, just in time to catch a documentary on Mayo Clinic by renowned filmmaker Ken Burns. “It was wonderful,” Denny says of the documentary that chronicles how Mayo Clinic has met the changing demands of health care for more than 150 years.
Denny, however, the documentary was more than informational entertainment. It
also inspired hope in him — hope that Mayo Clinic could be the one medical institution
in the U.S. with the knowledge and desire to rid his body of the epileptic
seizures he’d been living with for the past decade.
seizures were the result of two head traumas he suffered in his late 30s. The
second was a dirt bike crash that happened when an attempted jump at 60 mph
went wrong. “I hit the ground hard and knocked myself out,” he says.
she was with him at the time, Denny’s wife didn’t witness the accident. And
after regaining consciousness, Denny chose not to tell her. “She was
against me getting the dirt bike to begin with for this very reason,” he
recalls. “And I stupidly didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of
knowing she was right.”
Instead, after coming to and regaining his faculties, Denny drove them home where he thought he’d escaped serious injury and a serious reprimand from his spouse. A few months later, however, the true effects of the accident came to light when Denny began experiencing what he now recognizes as simple partial seizures. “We didn’t know they were partials at the time,” he says.
Months later, the simple partial seizures Denny was experiencing manifested into his first grand mal seizure. “Thank God that happened at home in our master bedroom with my wife, who’s a nurse, in the room with me,” Denny says. “It was then that we knew I was probably suffering from epilepsy. It was also then that I had to tell her about the dirt bike wreck.”
New hope after years of struggle
change in his health couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time for Denny. “I
owned my own construction company, and business was going well,” he says. “I
had jobs going in five different states. Nothing in my life was struggling
until the seizures started.”
the next year, Denny would find ways to fight through the growing frequency and
intensity of his seizures, until it became evident he could no longer do so while
also trying to lead a growing construction company. “After about a year,
it was clear I needed to shut my business down and figure out what we were
going to do medically,” he says.
“I started thinking, ‘How in the world am I ever going to be able to work again and get back to living a normal life?'”
decision would be the beginning of an 11-year journey that had Denny going from
one neurologist to another. After putting him through a multitude of tests,
those specialists would invariably prescribe a multitude of medications
intended to keep his seizures at bay, to no avail.
soon as I would get used to each new batch of drugs, something would happen
again,” Denny says. “Over those 11 years, I’d been put on about 30
different epilepsy drugs. Over time, I finally began to resign myself to the
fact that there was something deeper going on. Because once my body got used to
the new drugs, the show was over. I went right back to having seizures daily. I
started thinking, ‘How in the world am I ever going to be able to work again
and get back to living a normal life?'”
was at that point Denny found “The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science”
by Ken Burns. “After watching the documentary, I called Mayo Clinic the
next day,” he says. “I talked to a very nice patient appointment
coordinator. We scheduled an appointment, and she told me exactly where I
needed to go and exactly who I needed to see. I don’t think I slept at all that
night because I spent so much time on the computer reading about Mayo Clinic.”
Team approach to individualized care
he arrived in Rochester, Denny went to the eighth floor of the Mayo Building to
see epilepsy neurologist Terrence
Lagerlund, M.D., Ph.D. When he was called back to Dr. Lagerlund’s
office for his first appointment, Denny says he knew his stars of hope and
healing were beginning to align.
a big Miami Hurricanes fan, and when I arrived at Mayo for my first appointment
with Dr. Lagerlund, I noticed a plaque on his wall that said he’d studied in
Miami,” Denny says. “I told myself: ‘You’re going to listen to
whatever he says and whatever he wants to do. This is his show now.'”
For Dr. Lagerlund, however, assessing Denny’s epilepsy and coming up with the best possible treatment plan was anything but a one-man show. “He put me through about a week and a half of testing and said my test results would go to 12 epilepsy specialists from Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Neuroradiology who would all analyze the results and come up with what they thought was the best treatment approach,” Denny says. “I immediately knew I’d come to the right place. I’d never experienced that kind of team approach to my care before.”
Lagerlund also told Denny that after the team of surgeons had analyzed and
scrutinized his test results, he’d be placed into the care of one dedicated
neurosurgeon who would then carry out the recommended treatment plan. That neurosurgeon
Van Gompel, M.D.
“I immediately knew I’d come to the right place. I’d never experienced that kind of team approach to my care before.”
test results showed Denny had a small encephalocele on his brain. Encephaloceles
result from defects at the base of the skull
that allow a sac-like protrusion of the
brain and the membranes that cover it through an opening in the skull.
In some cases, encephaloceles can lead to seizures.
initially discussed that one potential approach to his care would be to first put
an electrode into the encephalocele, as well as several more into his brain’s
medial hippocampus and amygdala, in order to record his seizures to ensure they
were not arising independently from the hippocampus,” Dr. Van Gompel says.
“This, however, would have been quite costly and time-consuming and
difficult for him to undergo while living in Texas.”
The team’s second treatment recommendation was
one that would not only be faster, but one that they believed carried the
highest chance for success and the lowest risk of side effects.
“We also discussed a surgical resection of
his inferior temporal lobe, during which we’d surgically remove the problem
area and repair it with abdominal fat,” Dr. Van Gompel says. “Each
surgery, of course, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s truly a form of individualized
medicine at Mayo Clinic, where we take into account each patient’s imaging data,
and then come up with something that makes sense for them. We didn’t know
exactly what the surgery would do for Denny, but we all thought it had a good
chance of being successful.”
team presented Denny with the second treatment option, explaining to him that
it was possible another procedure might be necessary in the future if his
symptoms came back. It was a chance Denny was willing to take. “I was
like: “Yes, let’s do it. Let’s do the surgery,” he says. “I didn’t
want to wait any longer because I couldn’t continue living with these seizures.”
Goodbye to the past
the surgery, during which Dr. Van Gompel and his surgical team removed the
small portion of Denny’s brain that they believed to be the source of his
seizures, Denny says the change was immediate.
noticed a difference within two days,” Denny says. “Dr. Van Gompel
was able to remove about 90% of the problem area, so I still need to be on a
small dosage of antiseizure medication going forward, but I’m finally able to
think and work properly again. I feel like my body and my brain are fully
recovered and back to their original state. Before coming to Mayo, my eyes
would twitch, and I’d have headaches almost daily. But since the surgery, that’s
all gone, too. It’s all in the past now.”
“It’s just been a wonderful experience for me from start to finish.”
an outcome that Dr. Van Gompel is happy to have had played a part in. “This
is why I love doing epilepsy surgeries,” he says. “We do some really
interesting surgeries here at Mayo Clinic, but epilepsy surgeries are probably
the most amazing for me because something as simple as taking a small part of
the brain out — while it’s not a very difficult procedure for us to do — can
have such a major impact for patients like Denny.”
the seizures behind him, Denny now wants to share his experience with as many
others as he can. “I’ve told everyone I know about how great Mayo Clinic
is. I’m up to sending nine different people to Mayo Clinic as patients now,”
he says. “It’s just been a wonderful experience for me from start to
finish. I’ve told so many people: ‘You’ll be overcome by joy, love and
compassion when you get to Mayo Clinic. Everyone there is going to put their
arms around you and do everything they can to put an end to your medical
worries, just like they did for me.'”