It all started on September 11, 2017. Megan was playing the clarinet at school when, all of a sudden, she started going into a seizure. The same thing happened at home not too long after that. But the doctors at her local hospital couldn’t figure out why.
Her seizures became more and more frequent. She kept falling down and experiencing all sorts of symptoms, from blanking out and staring into space for a few moments to full-blown convulsions. A few weeks later, her “absences” had become alarming. Her CEGEP teachers were worried about her.
Then the nausea and headaches set in. Nobody was sure whether they were related to her fainting spells or not. Josée, her mother, started to wonder if she had a concussion. They went to see her family doctor, who gave them an emergency referral to consult with a neurologist at Sainte-Justine.
Only a few hours later, she was undergoing her first neurological assessment. The findings showed that Megan was having what is known as focal or partial seizures, which caused a temporary loss of consciousness. The diagnosis explained everything she had been going through in the previous months.
We tried two types of drugs. They help cut down on the number of seizures. But then she started having suicidal thoughts. She fell into a depression. Were the drugs to blame? We needed to dig deeper.
The doctors at Sainte-Justine gave Megan an EEG (electroencephalogram) to record the electrical activity in her brain and detect potential anomalies. But the findings were inconclusive.
A few months later, she was admitted to Sainte-Justine for four days of observation to try and find the root cause of her epilepsy. The first day, a few hours after she stopped taking her medication, she had three severe seizures, one after another, as her medical team watched on. It was unnerving to say the least.
An MRI subsequently confirmed the diagnosis: Megan had a tumour on the right side of her brain. She was at risk of losing her vision. Surgery was the only option. Unfortunately, the mass was hard to reach. But the pediatric neurosurgery laser at Sainte-Justine would help reduce the risks and minimize the after-effects associated with conventional surgery.
Brain surgery using a laser
May 31, 2019: the day Megan was cured. And all because of the pediatric neurosurgery laser, a game-changing piece of equipment acquired through the generosity of donors to the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation. One 4 mm incision and 10 hours later, Dr. Alexander Weil and his teams had burned away the tumour. Megan was back home 24 hours later, with zero side effects.
The tumour was deep inside her brain. Removing it using conventional means would have required making a massive incision and temporarily removing part of her skull – a high-risk, highly invasive procedure. She would have had to spend at least two days in the ICU and another week in the hospital for observation.
Dr. Alexander Weil
During the procedure, the surgical team confirmed that the tumour was benign. But it would have turned malignant had it remained there untreated.
Today, thanks to the attentive care of the professionals at Sainte-Justine and the amazing generosity of the hospital’s community of donors, 16-year-old Megan is living a normal life again. She is happy and healthy. And she’s grateful to be back at school, seizure-free.
Thank you for making a difference in their lives and for giving generously so other children and youth can follow in their footsteps.