Most parents regard their young children as rather miraculous beings. For Rachel and Curtis Condon of Atlanta, that conviction is especially pronounced. “Mirabel is nothing short of a walking, talking miracle,” said Rachel, of her 2-year-old daughter, who is meeting all of her developmental milestones once again after a nine-month struggle with seizures that temporarily put the family’s life – and Mirabel’s future – on hold.
Just before her first birthday, little Mirabel began experiencing epileptic seizures that shattered early dreams of a normal childhood. Mirabel would stiffly raise her right arm, make a grunting sound and her eyes would bulge and flutter. These increasingly frequent events were terrifying for her parents whose lives overnight gave way to a series of hospitalizations and subspecialist visits. During the first months after diagnosis, doctors in the region attempted to quell the seizures with first one medication and then another.
Despite these efforts, the terrifying events persisted and worsened. “She was either sleeping or seizing. There was no speech and no motor skills development. It was a terrible quality of life,” Rachel recalls.
Finally, a trusted doctor in Atlanta advised the family that it was time to seek care in the “Major Leagues.” Nicklaus Children's was among a small group of top centers he identified for treatment of medically resistant epilepsy, or seizures that do not respond to anticonvulsant medications.
The first ray of hope for the Condons came during a visit to Nicklaus Children's in June of 2012. Dr. Michael Duchowny, Medical Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, advised the family that Mirabel was indeed a candidate for surgery to remove seizure-causing brain tissue. A little more than a month later, Mirabel underwent a 10-hour surgery in which Dr. John Ragheb, Director of the Division of Neurosurgery, removed a malfunctioning portion of the left parietal region of her brain that was causing the seizures.
Dr. Ragheb and the Nicklaus Children's neurosurgical team are renowned for surgical treatment of epilepsy while maximizing tissue preservation and protecting essential brain functions.
Today, little Mirabel is completely seizure-free and has quickly overcome developmental setbacks related to her seizures and medications. “If you did not know her history, you would never know that she had been through all of this,” said Rachel. “We thank Nicklaus Children's for giving us back our daughter.”