The Brownes bonded quickly with Dr. Michael Duchowny, Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, dubbing him “Dr. Do” for his can-do attitude and willingness to explore all avenues to help Madeline.
Madeline Browne of Melbourne, Florida, was only 3 years old when she began having seizures. Her face would turn bright red, her eyes would dilate and her arms contract for perhaps half a minute, frightening her doting parents.
Dietrich and Kristen Browne wasted no time seeking help. A local neurologist prescribed medication, but within months Madeline began seizing again with even greater frequency. When the local physician offered only ever-increasing doses of the same ineffective medicine, the Brownes began searching elsewhere for answers. They were relieved to learn that one of the nation’s top pediatric programs for treatment of medically resistant epilepsy was located at the Nicklaus Children's Brain Institute, just a couple of hours away.
“He told us right away that Madeline would likely need surgery at some point to treat the seizures,” said Kristen. But, first, the team wanted to try advanced medications to ensure that surgery was the best option. As different prescriptions were employed, the seizures would respond temporarily, but then reemerge. “In time, we saw her disappearing. Her skills were regressing,” recalls Dietrich. It was plain that it was time to consider surgery.
The Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, neurosurgical team is renowned for its pre-surgical brain-mapping techniques. Electrodes are surgically implanted in the brain to help identify the source of seizures and their proximity to critical brain functions. Madeline’s seizures, it was eventually discovered, originated in the insular lobe, the deepest part of the brain, and were very close to key centers for speech and function of her right arm.
Following a successful 2009 surgery performed by neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjiv Bhatia to remove the diseased tissue, Madeline, now 10, has been seizure-free and has dazzled her family with her newfound maturity. She is doing well in school, has no speech or physical deficits, and pursues hobbies that include art, ballet and basketball.
“Madeline has matured years as a result of the surgery,” said Dietrich. “She is a completely different child who takes charge of herself and even reminds us when it’s time to turn in library books. We thank Dr. Duchowny and Dr. Bhatia for giving her – and all of us – a brighter future.” Wanting to give back, the Brownes are available to speak with other families of children with epilepsy. They can be contacted through the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.