SickKids celebrates Purple Day with the opening of the expanded Epilepsy Monitoring Unit
SickKids patients and staff celebrated Purple Day for Epilepsy awareness on March 26, with the grand opening of the expanded Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU).
The SickKids EMU expansion from four to seven beds was made possible through funding provided by the provincial government, under a task force led by the previous Head of the Division of Neurology and Centre for Brain & Mental Health, Dr. Carter Snead. The funding has allowed for a total of 21 beds to be added across Ontario, to enhance the care of both children and adults with epilepsy.
“SickKids offers a comprehensive epilepsy program, which will be further enhanced by the additional beds and the impact they will have on the care of children with epilepsy,” says Dr. Elizabeth Donner, Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at SickKids. “The expanded unit will allow us to evaluate children faster, shortening the time that children are living with disabling seizures and reducing the stress that seizures put on the lives of children with epilepsy and their families.”
Marilyn Monk, Executive Vice-President at SickKids, and Donner were joined by a special guest at the ribbon-cutting ceremony – SickKids patient Natasha, who has benefitted first-hand from the Epilepsy Program. Natasha recently underwent surgery for her epilepsy, after undergoing months of tests at SickKids and a stay in the EMU to evaluate her condition.
“Natasha’s procedure would not have been possible without the entire team at SickKids,” says Saima Khan, Natasha’s mother. “Whenever we came for a test or appointment, I was amazed that everyone remembered my daughter and her story. They were extremely empathic and supportive.”
The EMU evaluates children with drug-resistant epilepsy to see if they are a candidate for surgery, using electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure brain activity over an extended period of time, ranging from one night to five days. The EEG test involves attaching electrodes to the scalp to identify where seizures are coming from within the brain.
Patients are candidates for surgery when medications fail to control seizures, and when the seizure-causing region has been identified and can be removed or disconnected with minimal or no harm to the child. When surgery is a treatment option, it is 70 to 90 per cent effective in stopping seizures.
There are significant benefits to undergoing epilepsy surgery as a child; children recover much faster than adults and if left untreated seizures can get more severe, to the point where they can no longer be corrected through surgery.
The Centre for Brain & Mental Health helped kicked off the Purple Day celebration with its annual epilepsy resource and information event - complete with Purple Day swag, cards made by students in the Epilepsy Classroom at SickKids, and visiting community epilepsy organizations.