Sylvia's story
 Sylvia's story

 Back pain, epilepsy & carpal tunnel

When stricken with acute pain in her lower back late one evening, she wasn't completely surprised.

"It's a hazard of the dental hygienist's job," she says. "It's very stressful the way we sit, hunched over our patients. We twist and turn. And we're in a time crunch. We see a new patient every 45 minutes."

Sylvia's pain was so sudden and severe that she spent an entire day in bed, the pain radiating down both of her legs. When she finally agreed to go to the hospital, she went by ambulance, strapped securely on a stretcher.

There, she underwent MRI and CT scans and saw Tann Nichols, MD, a neurosurgeon with Mayfield Brain & Spine. Sylvia's pain, triggered by extensive arthritis, abated, and Dr. Nichols referred her to Mayfield Physical Therapy, where she came under the care of Jenna Till, DPT, Luke Iding, DPT, and Rachel Burgess, PTA. Dr. Nichols also referred her to Donald Carruthers, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, and, if surgery were necessary, to Yair Gozal, MD, PhD.

Sylvia knew she was in the right place. Mayfield, which offered her a complete continuum of spine care, had helped her before, first when she was struggling with medication-resistant seizures, and later when she was hampered by carpal tunnel syndrome. "Mayfield has always been there for me and they are here for me now," she says.

Sylvia first came to Mayfield some 30 years ago. While in her mid-30s, she began to experience seizures linked to hormonal changes. She'd feel a rush from the top of her head that would "flow down and slow you down." She was treated with medication for a period of five years, but the seizures persisted. She was also warned that the seizures would likely increase as she aged.

That's when Sylvia was referred to the late Hwa-shain Yeh, MD, a Mayfield neurosurgeon who removed the source of her seizures by performing a right temporal lobectomy in November 1994. Dr. Yeh passed away in 2012, not long after his retirement.

Sylvia has been seizure-free ever since the surgery – 25 years and counting! The recovery, however, was not always easy. Her life had its ups and downs, but she always picked herself up and got right back in sync.

A few years following her epilepsy surgery, Sylvia returned to Mayfield for carpal tunnel surgery, also with Dr. Yeh. She remembers his asking with a smile if she trusted him to do the surgery. "After successful brain surgery, I certainly did trust him!" she says. "I will never forget the man. He was so calm, and he prayed with me before surgery. Dr. Yeh was such an inspiration and help to me."

Giving back

These days, Sylvia is constantly looking to help others affected by an epilepsy diagnosis, whether she comes across them through her profession or while volunteering with Epilepsy Alliance Ohio.

At the dental office where she works in Mason, Ohio, Sylvia takes special note of patients with epilepsy. She emphasizes oral healthcare with them because many medications can impact gum health. She recommends flossing, brushing regularly, and seeing a dentist every 6 months.

Epilepsy Alliance Ohio hosts Camp Flame Catcher at Camp Kern three times a year for children with epilepsy. Sylvia volunteers by making crafts with the children and enjoys learning about their hobbies. She encourages them to keep going – and not to let anyone get them down. She says she reminds them "that they are still normal people and epilepsy is just an illness."

~ Christa McAlpin

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Hope Story Disclaimer -"Sylvia's Story" is about one patient's health-care experience. Please bear in mind that because every patient is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Results are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.