“All I really wanted was to be able to drive,” Mike Hickey reflects when asked why he went in for Epilepsy Surgery. He had gotten his drivers license at 16 just like all his friends, “so I knew what it was like,” says Mike. All that was lost, however when an unexpected seizure caused him to crash his brother’s car that same year.
Mike actually had his first seizure earlier that year in his fourth period English Class. Lucky for him, his friend Rob stopped him from crashing to the floor. Mike says, “They said it was a black out, no one even thought of epilepsy at that time.”
The year after that, he had a couple more seizures but when he started college the following year he began to average 4-5 seizures a month. Mike says he never knew when a seizure was coming. He would usually just wake up a couple of hours later and the people around him would tell him what happened. Fortunately for him, he never got seriously injured during one of his seizures. He once had a seizure while doing a presentation in American Studies and failed the class.
A couple of years into college, Mike went to see a neurologist, Dr. Nordli at Helen Hayes Hospital. That is when he was finally diagnosed with Epilepsy. For several years, he and Dr. Nordli varied the type and dosage of the medications he took, but never got his seizures under control. Finally the Epilepsy Center team, including neurosurgeon, Dr. Robert Goodman , recommended that Mike consider epilepsy surgery here at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
Dr. Goodman worked closely with Dr. Nordli to map Mike’s seizures. They were finally able to find the exact location in his brain called the seizure focus. (This is the part of the brain where the seizures were originating).
In Mike’s case, this was found to be an area in the back part of his temporal lobe. Fortunately this is an area of the brain that surgeons have had great success in treating.
During a more than six hour surgery, Dr. Goodman performed a temporal lobectomy. The procedure began with careful mapping of the brain using computers, imaging technology and sophisticated software. When the exact surgical location was targeted, Dr. Goodman removed a section of the skull over the area. (In Mike’s case, on the side, near the back of his head). Then carefully, the section of his brain that was known to be the cause of the seizures was removed.
During the surgery, Dr. Goodman had to make an important decision. He knew that the section he had to remove would affect Mike’s vision but it was a worthwhile sacrifice to enable Mike to be seizure free and live a normal life.
After the surgery, Mike’s seizures stopped completely. As, Dr. Goodman had predicted, he did have some problems with his vision. He couldn’t see things that were to his right, but Dr. Goodman knew that Mike could eventually compensate for that.
After being seizure free for a year, Mike was able to get his drivers license and his new life and independence kicked into high gear. He got a part time job and because he could now drive, he enrolled in a paralegal program. “I always liked the law. I saw it as a way I could help people,” Mike says. He learned to compensate very well for the vision loss, by turning his head or looking to the right
In 2000, exactly seven years after surgery, Mike told Dr. Goodman, “I am celebrating by going to work.” Today, Mike has been working as a paralegal for AT&T for ten years. He drives 35 miles to work every day and he just got back from a trip to Maine where he had to drive for eight hours straight both ways.
When asked what he would say to anyone with Epilepsy who is considering the surgery, his answer is simple, “Go see Dr. Goodman.”