Seizure-Free After Epilepsy Surgery – Real Patients, Real Stories

By: Emory Brain Health Center
Date: Oct 31, 2019
The seizures took control about once a month, rendering Erin Gatlin-Martin unable to drive. She couldn’t work, go see friends or run to the store. She was on three medications, but epilepsy and its effects still left her feeling frustrated and isolated.
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Gatlin-Martin was among the roughly three out of 10 patients who don’t respond to anti-seizure medication and required a more in-depth level of care. Partly on the recommendation of a friend from church, she reached out to the Emory Epilepsy Center, beginning a year of driving back and forth between Savannah and Atlanta for testing.

“I was very dependent on my husband for everything,” recalled Gatlin-Martin, a resident of the Savannah area. “He was serving as my husband and chauffeur. That was very frustrating for me. I couldn’t run out to the grocery store if my child was feeling hungry and we’d run out of crackers. I couldn’t do the things I needed to do to get through daily life.”

Gatlin-Martin’s case required a right temporal craniotomy for an anterior temporal lobectomy, which is open brain surgery to remove a part of the brain responsible for the seizures. On April 19, 2018, neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Gross performed the eight-hour surgery on Gatlin-Martin. Though Gatlin-Martin knew serious risks were a possibility, she lobbied for the more invasive procedure because it carried a higher success rate. Despite a complication—she suffered a minor stroke during surgery—the outcome has been life-changing.

“It was something I felt like I needed to do for my quality of life and my family’s quality of life,” said Gatlin-Martin, who is mother to a toddler and underwent two and a half weeks of inpatient rehabilitation at Emory Rehabilitation Hospital before returning to Savannah. “I really wanted to be able to take care of my son, especially with him being so young.”

Erin Gatlin-Martin and husbandGatlin-Martin has experienced a vast improvement in her quality of life. She only has negligible residual effects, and she hasn’t had a seizure since her surgery over a year ago.

“I’m able to drive now,” she said. “I’m not always having to worry about whether I’ll have a seizure. I’m involved in a lot more activities. I’ve gotten more involved with church, I’ve been able to get to the gym more and I can take my son a lot more places. I’m weaning off my meds and will go to school this fall to pursue my MDiv (Master of Divinity) degree so everything is definitely going good.”

New and Advanced Approaches to Epilepsy Treatment

Epilepsy affects more than 110,000 people in Georgia, and over the years Emory specialists have been pioneering new and more effective treatment for people with drug-resistant epilepsy. It is essential to understand that surgical treatment for epilepsy is not a last resort. Modern epilepsy surgery is relatively safe and has a low risk of complications. Not everyone can be helped or cured by surgery, but it is important to know whether it is an option. For other people, there are newer medications, often available as part of clinical trials at Emory, and there are several implantable pacemaker-like electrical stimulation devices to help seizure control. However, surgery offers the only hope for a complete cure of epilepsy.

Related Posts

  • Close-Up of Young Man With Medical Equipment in Bed at Hospital Ward
    Epilepsy patients can benefit from more treatment options and better outcomes than ever before. The Emory Epilepsy Center is advancing care.
  • C. Michael Cawley, MD
    Michael Cawley, MD, earns new role as director of the Emory MBNA Stroke Center, one of the nation’s leading stroke treatment and research centers.
  • woman sitting in a dark room
    Erin Gatlin-Martin, an Emory Epilepsy Center patient, struggled with drug-resistant epilepsy but is now seizure-free after epilepsy surgery.

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