Disrupting the Brain to Stop Izzy’s Seizures


NEPTUNE, N.J. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – One little boy struggled with epilepsy since just after birth – at one point, having up to 50 seizures a day. Pediatric neurosurgeons mapped out a procedure that disrupted the brain signals triggering his seizures.

Hydrocephalus is a condition where fluid builds in brain cavities, causing potentially damaging pressure on the brain. Surgeons implant a tube called a shunt to drain the excess fluid and relieve the pressure. But for some patients, health struggles don’t end there. As many as 35 percent of children born with hydrocephalus develop epilepsy, which includes life-altering chronic seizures.

Israel “Izzy” de La Cruz has gone through more in his five years than most people do in a lifetime. His mom, Shukreeah, was 30 weeks pregnant when an ultrasound technician detected something wrong.

Shukreeah remembers what the doctors told her.

“’Your son has hydrocephalus.’ And he’s like, ‘That’s basically water in the brain.’”

Doctors delivered Izzy by C-section and three weeks later, surgeons implanted a shunt to drain fluid. At just three months, seizures started and by 2018, he was having 50 seizures a day.

“He would just turn blue and purple. Those were probably the scariest seizures I’ve ever seen,” Shukreeah expresses.

Pediatric neurosurgeon at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Dr. Lawrence Daniels, explains, “These seizures were life-threatening at this point.”

(Read Full Interview)

Surgery was Izzy’s best option. Altogether, Izzy had nine brain surgeries, including one where Dr. Daniels removed a portion of his skull and slid an electrical grid on top of the brain to precisely measure the seizure activity.

“And if we could do that, there was an opportunity to disrupt that part of the brain and stop the seizures from spreading to the opposite side,” Dr. Daniels says.

Once doctors pinpointed the place where the seizures started, they were able to remove part of his temporal lobe to disrupt them.

Shukreeah knows Izzy suffers developmental delays but hopes with physical therapy, her son will crawl and then, someday walk and talk. Either way, she says Izzy is a gift.

“This little boy wakes up with a smile every single day, just to be grateful for life and to wake up,” Shukreeah says about her son.

Doctors say Israel is still on medication to control his seizures. The number of seizures has dramatically decreased – his mother says he’s gone from having those 50 seizures a day to just one.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5051

BACKGROUND: Hydrocephalus is the buildup of fluid deep within brain cavities. The increased amounts of fluid put pressure on the brain and can damage brain tissue and can cause a range of brain function problems. This condition can happen at any age but is most common in infants and men that are 60 or older in age.   Surgical treatment is an option and often different types of therapies are used to manage the symptoms and problems that result from having hydrocephalus. In infants’ hydrocephalus, symptoms include changes in the head such as an unusually large head, rapid increase in size, and a building or tense soft spot on the top of the infant’s head. Some physical symptoms include poor eating, seizures, and problems with muscle strength and tone. This condition is caused by an imbalance between how much cerebrospinal fluid is produced and how it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hydrocephalus/symptoms-causes)

DIAGNOSING: Diagnosing hydrocephalus can be done by using image testing such as an ultrasound, CT, and MRI scans. Another thing that doctors will perform on top of the test is a thorough neurological evaluation as well as a medical history background check. When doctors perform the evaluation, they are looking to see if the child has any cognitive impairment. The question they ask will pertain to the child’s attention, memory, reasoning, and language abilities. An ultrasound is used before the baby is born; the soft spot on the baby’s head allows the sound waves to travel through the skull safely and show the doctors and parents a good look at the fluid in the ventricles. If an MRI scan is used doctors can obtain a better image of the brain and provide more information about the surrounding brain tissue and evaluate the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid. A CT scans allows the doctors to see the enlarged ventricles and know that there is a buildup of fluid. This test is very quick and does not require the child to be sedated.

(Source: https://www.hydroassoc.org/about-hydrocephalus, https://nyulangone.org/conditions/hydrocephalus-in-children/diagnosis)

TREATMENT: Treatment for this condition is usually discussed by a team of people all specializing in different fields of medicine. These fields include neurosurgeons, pediatric ophthalmologist, radiologist, and neurologist. Treatment is possible but the child may also require ongoing monitoring because of their condition for the rest of their life. Some treatment plans that have been successfully performed are shunts and endoscopic third ventriculostomy. Shunting is the most common procedure done for this condition. A small piece of silicone tubing is placed inside the body to bypass the blockage and create better flow for the cerebrospinal fluid. Follow up care is extremely important for these children. Follow up appointments will be scheduled to monitor their progress and to see if any other conditions have come to the surface because of the hydrocephalus.

(Source: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hydrocephalus/hydrocephalus-in-children)


Edna Arguello


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Lawrence Daniels, M.D., the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery

Read the entire Q&A