Monday, August 29, 2011

Radical brain surgery frees baby held captive by seizures

Evan Stauff smiles and giggles. He mimics his father in making silly noises. He loves to play with toys and watch cartoons.

The 19-month-old didn’t do any of those things before undergoing surgery this past winter to remove half of his brain, a procedure that’s called a “hemispherectomy.” His family noticed a change in his behavior almost immediately — starting with his ability to focus on family members, rather than look through them.

“It’s already a miracle,” said Evan’s grandmother, Karen Sands of Payette. “He’s a person now; he wasn’t before.”

Evan was diagnosed with infantile spasms when he was almost 3 months old. The spasms were the result of a specific kind of epilepsy that develops in young children.

They came in clusters, and his episodes lasted five to 15 minutes. Evan’s dad, 31-year-old David Stauff, believes he witnessed his baby go through thousands of spasms over a seven-month period before the surgery.

“His brain was always in a state of seizure,” said Kathleen Stauff, Evan’s mom. The baby was physically exhausted by the seizures and had a very erratic sleep pattern.

He was lethargic and catatonic — “trapped inside,” Sands said.

Before the surgery, Evan wasn’t able to sit up — or even able to hold his head up — and he couldn’t grab and hold toys. Now he’s able to sit and play on the floor of his grandparents’ Eagle home.

He’s still behind developmentally but is progressing.

“He’s doing really well. We couldn’t be any happier,” said his father, who quit his job at a credit union to care for the youngest of his three boys.

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