Those diagnosed with epilepsy live a life of uncertainty, never knowing when the next seizure may occur. Until now, those Memphians suffering from the disease were forced to drive several hours to seek advanced care. Baptist has now changed that reality through a $1.5 million Baptist Foundation grant.
With the August opening of the new Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU), patients not only have a local treatment option, they have access to specialized care aimed at discovering what’s behind a seizure. Opened under the leadership of Dr. Pawan Rawal, the four-bed unit is located on the first floor at Baptist Memphis. Dr. Rawal expects the unit to be fully occupied by the end of the year.
“There are so few epilepsy centers, and epilepsy is fairly common. One in 26 people have seizures, which include shaking, confusion and passing out. Before, people had to travel to Vanderbilt in Nashville because there was no unit in this area,” said Dr. Rawal.
A neurological condition, epilepsy requires continuous management. The unit team consists of a fellowship-trained epileptologist (neurologist specially trained in epilepsy); trained nurses; technologists; pharmacists; and specialists in neurosurgery, neuropsychology, neuroradiology and psychiatry. This same team monitors patients 24/7 through video and EEG. Patients follow a specific protocol upon arrival and stay in private rooms with beds designed to protect patients. Ironically, the team hopes a patient experiences a seizure while on site so the data can help diagnose the type.
“We evaluate them while being monitored to determine which part of the brain is causing the seizure. One third of patients don’t have substantial benefit from any medicine,” said Dr. Rawal. In only certain cases can epilepsy be cured with surgery. “But not everyone is a candidate,” said Dr. Rawal.
Patients must be 18 or older and be referred by a physician. The average length of stay is five days. “Most of the time, we do get some type of information while they are here. We also confirm their diagnosis, as sometimes people are incorrectly diagnosed with epilepsy.”
For Connie Prudhomme, a Baptist team member who works in the EMU, the opening holds special significance. Her son Michael Anderson is an adult epileptic and the pair previously traveled to Jackson, Tenn., for treatment. “It’s a burden to take off work and then incur additional travel expenses,” said Connie. “This has been wonderful on a personal level. A child with epilepsy who grows into adulthood has challenges with a social life, learning and work. One seizure per year can result in no driving for six months.”
Michael likes the new unit, as well. “It’s better here.”