After Years of Battling Epilepsy, Cathy Gets Her Life Back with Minimally-Invasive Surgery

By Jade Waddy

Cathy Streuding’s love for travel has taken her and her family across the globe. In September 2007, Streuding had just completed a 9-week course of anti-malaria medication to prepare for a family trip to Africa when she began experiencing breakthrough epileptic seizures.

“I remember reading the side effects of the medication and there was a one in 15,000 chance of developing epilepsy,” Streuding said. “I had a few seizures as an infant, so I’m assuming my system was already compromised.”

During a hospitalization after Streuding’s first known tonic-clonic seizure, a neurologist explained that high-risk surgical intervention would be a last resort. Instead, she could try medication to stop the seizures.

For the next seven years, Streuding would continue taking these medications. However, it felt like a never ending rollercoaster trying to find the correct medication and dosage. “The medications my neurologists prescribed me would only provide me relief for about a year,” Streuding said. “I believe I tried four different types of medications.” In 2014, Streuding moved to Austin, where she continued to work with a neurologist to address her seizures.

Streuding began to wonder what other options existed. That’s when her neurologist suggested traditional brain surgery, which would include a craniotomy and up to five days in the intensive care unit (ICU) to recover.

“I didn’t think this could be my only option and the possibility of spending a significant amount of time in the ICU was not ideal for me,” Streuding said. She began researching surgical options to treat epilepsy.

In 2015, she came across a news article about the use of laser ablation surgery in children who had epilepsy. “My husband suggested doing some extensive research to find out who created the laser and then get in touch with the device company,” Streuding said. “I was able to track down the Texas sales rep and they led me to two neurosurgeons in Texas who were performing the procedure the most.”

Streuding chose Dr. Nitin Tandon, a neurosurgeon affiliated with the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center and professor of neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Dr. Tandon had the most experience performing this surgery, so I wanted to go with him,” Streuding said.

Laser ablation offers physicians and patients a precise, minimally-invasive surgical intervention for the treatment of well-delineated focal epilepsies.  

On Dec. 18, 2015, she arrived at Memorial Hermann-TMC for the procedure that would give Streuding her life back. Twenty-four hours after her procedure, Streuding was discharged from the hospital and spent an additional 24 hours in Houston before she was cleared to return home.

“I was amazed at how quickly I was able to return home, unlike a craniotomy that might have left me recovering for up to a week in the hospital,” Streuding said.”

Following the procedure, Streuding met with Dr. Stephen Thompson, a neurologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann and assistant professor of neurology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, who recommended she continue to take one of the two anti-epileptic medications she had been taking prior to surgery for at least a year while her brain healed.

Streuding experienced a few seizures once she returned home. However, she and her Austin-based neurologist eventually determined the proper medication dosage to help prevent her seizures.  

Today, Streuding takes one pill twice a day and has not experienced a seizure in over a year.

“I no longer have to think about whether or not I’m going to have a seizure,” Streuding said. “Before, it was top of mind all the time. I couldn’t drive and I had to be really mindful of what activities I participated in.”

Streuding and her husband recently went on a 3-week-long tour of the Panama Canal, and she was able to do all of the adventurous things she missed out on due to her epilepsy. Since her surgery, Streuding has also taken her beloved Mustang GT out on the race track a couple of times – something she hadn’t been able to do in years.

“I’ve been able to really get my life back,” Streuding said. “It’s night and day by comparison”

To learn more about epilepsy and treatment options at Memorial Hermann visit http://neuro.memorialhermann.org/epilepsy/.

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