Monday, November 23, 2009

Ammon is this sweet boy's name. Ammon has THE BEST SMILE. Ammon has THE BEST HUGS. Ammon also has epilepsy.

Ammon has debilitating and life threatening seizures that have damaged his brain and threaten his life. Countless different medications in the past 4 years have not been able to control his seizures. Ammon is 24 times more likely to die a sudden death than his little friends his age. Each time Ammon has a seizure he risks dying, just like Jett Travolta did. Recently, Ammon had a seizure and nearly drowned while playing in a creek 5 inches deep.

Ammon has hope that his life can be changed by having a Vagal Nerve Stimulator implanted around his vagal nerve. It will be like having an electrical pacemaker for his brain. It will be like giving him freedom to have his life back.

As Ammon's worried mother, I have set up a Chip-In account for those who can help us help him gather the funds necessary for this surgery. I know that his smile and his story has touched so many of you. Please take this chance to touch him back.


One of the most exciting developments in the field of epilepsy treatment is the Vagal Nerve Stimulator (VNS). The VNS is a device about the size of a hockey puck, which is placed in the chest in a manner similar to a pacemaker for the heart. The surgeon then wraps its lead wires around the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is unique among peripheral nerves of the body in that its nuclei begin in the brainstem (the lower part of the brain) but its peripheral nerve traverses a large portion of the body (neck, chest, and part of the abdomen). The other nerves that begin in the brainstem only go to portions of the head and neck.

Once implanted, the neurologist will program the VNS to deliver a series of stimulations to the vagus nerve at various strengths and frequencies. The VNS does not work by sensing a seizure. Instead, it works by repetitively stimulating the vagus nerve for a period of time and then by pausing for a period of time. How this achieves an anti-epileptic effect is unknown but the best explanation this author has heard of is that the device clearly scrambles some of the synchronous discharges of the brain. Since seizures are synchronous discharges of groups of neurons in the brain, then scrambling them periodically may serve to prevent the recruitment phase needed to begin a clinically recognizable seizure. The VNS device can be used for both partial and generalized onset seizures.

The VNS is also programmed with a special sequence that is activated when a magnet is swept over the device. For patients who can sense the start of a seizure (the aura of a seizure), it can be useful in aborting the seizure. For patients who cannot sense the impending seizure, it can be useful for family and caretakers to shorten the seizure and allow for faster recovery of the patient.

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