“What should we do now?” Kim Melanie's mother implored to her child’s doctor in Atlanta. The Leesburg, Georgia, mother was at the end of her rope after two and a half years of alternately trying every available medication to curb daughter Melanie’s relentless seizures. Little Melanie, then only 3, was seizing as often as 40 times per day and each would begin with a scream as the child anticipated the impending episode.
Melanie's family was exhausted from the long battle to end her seizures and fearful, knowing the unchecked neural malfunction was affecting her growth and development. “I told the doctor in Atlanta that I would sell my house and go anywhere in the world to help Melanie,” Kim recalled. “He said, ‘If I were you I would go see Dr. Michael Duchowny at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital. ‘ ” Dr. Duchowny, Medical Director of Nicklaus Children's Brain Institute’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, is a neurologist and world-renowned expert in treating medically resistant epileptic seizures.
Within days of Melanie's arrival in Miami, Dr. Duchowny and Dr. Nolan Altman, Chief of the Department of Radiology at Nicklaus Children's, succeeded in identifying the mysterious source of Melanie’s seizures through use of SPECT scans, a technology that few facilities employ. “We specialize in pinpointing the source of seizures that do not appear on MRI scans. Our greatest successes are those children who could not be helped at other facilities,” said Dr. Duchowny. Melanie is indeed one of Dr. Duchowny and the Brain Institute’s many success stories. After a May 2004 surgery performed by the hospital’s renowned neurosurgical team in which a significant portion of the child’s malfunctioning right frontal lobe was removed, Melanie, now 5, is a bright, confident kindergartner who loves to read.
In 2006, Melanie accompanied her friend Mason, also 5, to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, as he, too, required surgery to remove brain tissue that was causing epileptic seizures. Mason, the son of long-time friends of Melanie's family, has known her since his birth. When Mason’s seizures proved as intractable as Melanie’s, they advised their friends to bring their child to Nicklaus Children's. After visiting Dr. Duchowny and undergoing surgery with the Brain Institute team in September 2006, Mason and Melanie are back at play in Georgia—a lifetime of seizures behind them at last.