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Device helps local woman take control of her epilepsy

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Paula Degraw’s life was defined by epilepsy starting at the age of 19.

“I would never have gone out in public without my husband and son. I would be so afraid of having a seizure,” said Degraw.

She would have up to 70 seizures every month and she couldn’t work.

“I had no self-worth. I felt I had nothing to contribute to my family,” she said.

Everything changed when a physician told her about a device called a NeuroPace RNS System; it’s like a pacemaker, but for the brain.

“It's FDA approved and it’s a unique system. It monitors seizures 24 hours a day,” said Frank Fischer, the creator of the RNS System.

When it detects unusual activity, the device kicks in, fighting the source of the seizure. The system also collects data allowing physicians to review it at any time.

“Thirty percent of the patients had 90 percent or greater reduction in seizure frequency,” said Fischer.

RNS technology was developed and manufactured in Silicon Valley. It is similar to a pacemaker, according to the company's website.  In addition to treating epilepsy, responsive neurostimulatin holds the promise of treating several other disabling medical disorders that impact the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

In Paula’s case, she only gets a handful of seizures a month now, and when it happens they are significantly less debilitating.

Now this 46-year-old woman can say she has epilepsy, but it doesn’t have her.

“I’m not defined by an illness anymore. I am my own person. It doesn’t define who I am,” said Degraw.

 

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