Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Offering hope to those with epilepsy

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month

Dontavius Davis was just 6 years old when the shaking started.

“He was sitting in the living room and all of a sudden he said, ‘Momma, something's crawling on me,’” recalled Betty Brown, Dontavius’ mother. “He would just shake.”

Dontavius was diagnosed with epilepsy, a chronic medical condition caused by changes in the electrical impulses of the brain. Brown, who lives in Camilla, sought medical treatment for her son at local medical centers. But as Dontavius grew older, the seizures grew worse.

“He was on three different medications, but he was still experiencing eight or more seizures a day,” said Brown.

The disease forced Dontavius and his family to make certain lifestyle changes. Because the seizures affected the right side of his body, Dontavius taught himself to write with his left hand. He could only play outside if someone was there with him, to catch him and lay him down if he began experiencing a seizure. Even when he was taking a shower, his mother had to be nearby, in case he fell. Worse, his classmates began avoiding him, not understanding what was happening to Dontavius’ body.

Brown knew something had to change. A friend told her about a children’s hospital in Augusta. In 1996, she and Dontavius made their first visit to the MCG Children’s Medical Center to meet with Dr. Yong Park, an epilepsy specialist at the MCG Epilepsy Center.

Established in 1977, the MCG Epilepsy Center includes an epilepsy surgery program that is one of the most experienced in the country, as well as an investigational drug study program that allows patients access to the newest drug treatments available.

“We evaluated Dontavius in our Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit for a week, tracking the focus of his seizures,” said Dr. Park. “What we found was that the left central area of Dontavius’ brain was causing the drug-resistant seizures. Unless we performed brain surgery to remove this area of the brain, his seizures would continue to get worse and worse.”

Brown, who remembers telling her own mother that the one type of surgery she never wanted to have was brain surgery, had a tough decision to make.

“I talked to my family about it for a week or two,” said Brown. “My mom — she’s my rock — she said, ‘You have to think of him. It’s not your life. If this will make him better, you need to do it while he’s young. You need to do it now.’”

After much discussion and prayer, Dontavius underwent surgery in November 1996. He emerged having to wear a protective helmet for a time and still taking medication, but the seizures had stopped.

Brown was happy, but remained tentative. “It was exciting, but scary. I still had to watch him because I wasn't sure it would work.”

In 1999, Dr. Park began stepping down Dontavius’ medication. By December, Dr. Park recommended taking Dontavius completely off the medication, providing the family with a prescription just in case.

“It was a tense Christmas,” said Brown with a laugh. “I was watching him like a hawk.”

Now 15 and a 10th-grader, Dontavius has been seizure-free for 7 years. A good student, he’s also run track for the past three years, and is interested in trying out for the basketball team.

“He missed out on a lot while he was growing up,” said Brown. “He remembers, but he doesn’t like talking about it. I just say thank God for MCG.”

MCG Health System is composed of three separate organizations — MCG Health, Inc. and the clinical services offered by the faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia and the members of the Physicians Practice Group. The physicians of MCG Health System are community physicians and faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia and the Physicians Practice Group, not employees of MCG Health Inc. MCG Health, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation operating the MCG Medical Center, MCG Children’s Medical Center, the MCG Sports Medicine Center, MCG Ambulatory Care Center, the Georgia Radiation Therapy Center and related clinical facilities and services. MCG Health, Inc. was formed to support the research and education mission of the Medical College of Georgia and to build the economic growth of the CSRA, the state of Georgia and the Southeast by providing an environment for faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia and the Physicians Practice Group and community physicians to deliver the highest level of primary and specialty health care. For more information, visit

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