After episodes of shaking and seizures, Alyssa, age 8, was diagnosed with epilepsy in January 2007. Alyssa’s medications were not working; she was forgetting everyday things, even the alphabet. A dancer, she was not able to remember dance steps she had learned, forgot dances she used to perform and had to drop out of dance classes.
Five months later, Alyssa was diagnosed with Rasmussen’s encephalitis, a rare chronic inflammatory disease that usually affects only one hemisphere of the brain. It occurs in children under the age of 10 and is characterized by frequent and severe seizures, loss of motor skills and speech, paralysis on one side of the body, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and mental deterioration.
In February 2008, Alyssa had a left functional hemispherectomy, a surgical procedure intended to reduce the frequency of seizures and also improve behavior and cognitive abilities. Alyssa was in the hospital for one month – she lost the ability to speak, could not hold her head up, lost her peripheral vision permanently and was paralyzed on the right side of her body.
In March 2008, Alyssa began physical, occupational and speech therapies at TIRR Memorial Hermann Kirby Glen. After some therapy, Alyssa started depending less on her wheelchair and began walking and running again. Due to the loss of her peripheral vision, her therapists are helping her learn to maneuver her eyes and head to adjust to her limited eye functions. Alyssa is now in regular art, music and physical education classes. She is working toward her goal to be in all regular classes and eventually would like to dance again.
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