How neurosurgery gave Whitney Goulstone her life back

March 20, 2015

On the morning of Nov. 25, 2010, Whitney Goulstone had a simple partial seizure, shortly after waking up. She was having surgery later that day to address her epilepsy and didn’t know what to expect. Doctors told her the surgery would likely reduce her seizures but not eliminate them.

newlogoBut since having the surgery, which was a resection of the parietal lobe to remove damaged tissue the size of a tangerine, the King City, Ont. resident has not had a single seizure.

“We were expecting a 20- to 60-per-cent reduction of seizures, and we got 100 per cent,” Goulstone happily tells Voices of Epilepsy.

Goulstone began having seizures at 13. The seizures gradually became worse. She was 19 when she suffered her first tonic-clonic seizure. It was at this time Goulstone was diagnosed with epilepsy.

For the next 12 years Goulstone took a variety of different medications which often didn’t work or would give her an allergic reaction. Then her neurologist recommended her for surgery after several tests were conducted.

There has been a major change in Goulstone’s life since her surgery, she says. The mother of two says one of the most measureable results of the surgery has been that the severe anxiety disorder she lived with for many years has gone away.

“As a mother, I was constantly worrying about when my next seizure was going to be; constantly worrying if I was going to hurt my children in any way; (worrying that) I would be encroaching on their safety,” she says. “I was constantly worrying … if I was a good enough mother. That was a huge problem for me.”

While surgery isn’t always an option for every person living with epilepsy, those affected by seizure disorders should always talk with their neurologist to see if they’re a candidate, Goulstone says. People having seizures, she adds, should “never be complacent” with their condition.

Goulstone says there are two aspects to her life so far: before Nov. 25, 2010, and after Nov. 25, 2010. The difference between these periods, she says, is “night and day.”

“Going into the surgery I was in a wheelchair. I was wearing a helmet. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t be on my own. I couldn’t hold my children. I couldn’t give them a bath,” she says. “Now I am working, I can drive, I can do everything that (people) take for granted.

“It’s a different life.”

Writer: Deron Hamel

Editor’s Note: Critical Care Services Ontario recently released a document called Provincial Guidelines for the Management of Epilepsy in Adults and Children to support the flow of patients towards appropriate treatment for epilepsy.  The document contains a set of guidelines to help with the diagnosis, treatment and referral practices from the moment of a patient’s first seizure. To view the guidelines, please click here

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