Seizures can be medically defined as electrical impulses radiating through all or part of the brain. According to Epilepsy Ontario, “There are more than 40 different types of seizures. Most fall under two main categories:
1. Generalized seizures occur when there is widespread seizure activity in the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The most common forms of generalized seizures are:
- absence seizures (formerly known as petit mal)
- tonic-clonic or convulsive seizures (formerly known as grand mal)
2. Focal (or partial) seizures occur when seizure activity is limited to a part of one brain hemisphere. There is a site, or a focus, in the brain where the seizure begins. The most common forms of focal seizures are:
- simple partial seizures (sometimes referred to as an aura)
- complex partial seizures
The American Brian Tumour Association cites that approximately 60% of patients with brain tumours experience seizures. As a result of multiple brain metastasis a year prior to her death, my Mom began experiencing focal seizures. The first one happened when I had driven her to get ice cream with her friends. We had gone into the Pizza Pizza to get some water and my Mom was explaining to her friends how she had been having a bit of an ‘off’ day. She told them how she had been making soup earlier and her arm kept dropping onto the pot and she didn’t realize until she began to feel the burning sensation. This is referred to as an ‘aura,’ or signal of an oncoming seizure. It can occur in the form of a headache, twitch, change of mood, or smell. Ironically, it was at this point that her arm began to twitch, and her friends asked, “Oh, you mean like that?” My confused eyes met hers, the exchange only lasted a moment before the entire left side of my Moms body began to convulse and she cried out in pain. She lost control of her body as she began to slide out of her chair, her friends moved to help stabilize her while I called 911.
We later found out that this was a focal seizure as a result of the progression of the disease. She spent over a week in the hospital because the cramping from the seizure was so severe that it caused a loss of function in her arm and leg. Although you are often told not to restrict a patient who is seizing, we discovered that holding my Moms foot straight so that it couldn’t curl under greatly reduced the cramping and after affects of immobility.
The doctors prescribed a variety of medication for the seizures, which, once they found the right dose, worked well. The steroid Dexamethazone was used to control the the brain swelling. Dilantin and Carbamazepine were used in combination to control seizures. We found this combination worked well without making my Mom feel too foggy. We tried other medications for her seizures throughout the diseases as well, however, we found that these three medications were both consistent and effective.