CANFIELD Attorney praises surgery for epilepsy



November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
Atty. Anne Crawford's speech slowed as she ended her closing argument. She leaned on the drawing she was using as an exhibit and told the judge she had nothing further.
The judge later called it a great moment in a great closing argument, and Crawford, of Canfield, won the case.
Crawford, however, was frightened. She hadn't drawn out her words for effect.
She'd had a seizure in front of the jury. Crawford knew what was happening around her during her seizures, but her speech slowed and she often stared blankly ahead.
"There's no feeling worse," she said.
Crawford had been living with seizures since a high fever left a scar on her brain when she was 9 months old. In the third grade she was diagnosed with epilepsy, a neurological condition that makes a person prone to multiple seizures.
For years she covered up her condition, lying to teachers and friends because she was worried about how they would treat her if they knew she had epilepsy. She also lied to her doctors, telling them medication was controlling her seizures.
Crawford was taking less than the prescribed amount of medication so she wouldn't be lethargic and nauseated.
1999 surgery
Then, in 1999, Crawford had surgery that changed her life. The scar on her brain was removed, as were two sections of her brain.
She hasn't had a seizure since the surgery.
"I am 100 percent more functional," she said. "I would do it again tomorrow."
Crawford's husband, Scott, said the surgery has given his wife more confidence in social settings. Before the surgery Crawford would often be withdrawn in public because she was concerned about having a seizure.
"It worked out well," Scott said. "We are fortunate. We are very fortunate."
Surgery can be used to treat people whose seizures are traced to one section of their brains. Doctors do not know what causes epilepsy in most people with the disorder.
Some, however, have epilepsy as a result of head injuries, genetic conditions, lead poisoning or brain tumors.
About 80 percent of the people who have surgery are cured of seizures.
Janet Mau, the director of the Mahoning Valley Epilepsy Fund, estimated that about 5,000 people in the Valley live with the disorder.
November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month.
Mau added that about one in 10 people will have a seizure at least once in his or her life.
"That one seizure turns your life upside down," she said. "For several months and years you are anticipating having another one."
Living with epilepsy
Crawford had her first seizure in her family's car when she was 9 months old. Her mother drove her to the hospital, where doctors found a scar on the left side of her brain.
"[My mother] was petrified. It's kind of a parent's worst fear," Crawford said.
She was prescribed medication, and she was free of seizures until she was in third grade. Her mother again took her to a doctor, who diagnosed her with epilepsy.
Crawford said some mornings, she would wake up shaky and she would have a feeling she described as her stomach dropping. She learned those feelings were a sign that she was going to have seizures during the day.
"There was fear there, because, where am I going to be when it happens?" Crawford said.
When she had a seizure in class, her close friends would cover for her so her teachers wouldn't realize she had epilepsy. Her friends would sit next to her, answer questions from the teacher, and hold her arms to stop her from gesturing.
"When they learned what was going on, they could cover for me, and my friends were good," she said. "You learn to lie."
Unpleasant side effects
Doctors prescribed medication to treat Crawford's seizures through her high school and college years. The medication, however, made her sick and didn't stop the seizures.
In college, she took half the doses prescribed by her doctors so she could make it through her day.
"If I actually took the dose they prescribed, I'd never have made it through college," Crawford said.
Crawford began working as a personal injury attorney at her father's Youngstown firm after graduating from law school. She said she had only one seizure in front of a jury.
While working on a case in 1998, Crawford met a neurologist who agreed to examine her. He eventually recommended that she have surgery.
The surgery called for doctors to remove the scar as well as two parts of her brain that had been damaged by repeated seizures.
Crawford had the six-hour surgery in 1999 at the Cleveland Clinic. She then took anti-seizure medication for two years as she recovered.
No regrets
Today Crawford is off the medication and seizure-free. She noted that her memory was affected by the surgery, and she now makes sure to write down names.
Crawford stressed, however, that she does not regret having the surgery. In fact, she said, she and her husband celebrate the anniversary of her surgery each year.
"The results were excellent," she said. "To be able to get up in the morning and do your hair and not have the stomach-dropping feeling, or not wishing you could stay under the covers, it's a different kind of freedom."
hill@vindy.com

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