Surgery to treat epilepsy gives N. TX man hope

Epilepsy affects an estimated 1 in 25 Americans at a cost of $15.5 billion a year, but for one North Texas man, there is now new hope thanks to a surgery that doctors are calling revolutionary.

Life for 28-year-old David Wenger of Plano has never been easy. He was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 2 and suffers from seizures once every two to three weeks.

Sitting on the surface on the left side of Wenger's brain is an implant that could help him live the kind of life that most take for granted.  

The implant is called an RNS – a responsive neuro stimulator. It works like a defibrillator, except instead of shocking the heart, it shocks the brain.

Dr. Joseph Beshay oversaw Wenger's surgery.

"The risk of implanting the device is not very high," said Beshay. "The biggest risk, I think, is will it work, or will it not?"

Before the RNS, Wenger relied on another device implanted in his chest, but there were side effects, such as difficulty talking.

The RNS came at the suggestion of Wenger's neurologist, Dr. Robert Leroy.

"We tried probably 10, 12 medicines, and still, he was having seizures," said Leroy.

The magic of the RNS is that it reads brainwaves, senses an oncoming seizure and sends a counteracting electrical impulse, neutralizing it.

But it's not for everyone. Right now, it's only for people like Wenger, whose epilepsy comes from a small, specific part of the brain.

Wenger now scans his own brainwave and enters them into his home computer for his doctors to read -- a small inconvenience in exchange for so much hope ad true freedom.

"Really to simply my life and put those seizures aside once and for all," said Wenger.

The FDA recently approved the device and doctors are still learning about it.

While Wenger is the first in North Texas to get the RNA, at least other two to three other patients in North Texas are expected to get it as well.


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