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The Power of Experience

Epilepsy specialist makes a life-altering change for Peggy Ann Bell, a longtime seizure sufferer

Peggy Ann BellIn her Kansas City apartment, where she enjoys making bracelets and playing Bingo, Peggy Ann Bell will mark a milestone birthday later this year. She will turn 70 in November.

But she hopes to celebrate an even more meaningful landmark event. After a lifetime managing the challenges of epilepsy, seizures and their after-effects, Peggy is progressing toward seizure freedom.

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Peggy crossed the country at 8 years old to live with her aunt in Sacramento, California. While there, Peggy experienced a traumatic brain injury that would trigger the first seizure of many that would plague her for decades. Once she was well enough to travel, she returned to her mother in Arkansas, and they began to look for a doctor to treat Peggy's epilepsy.

"Those seizures were difficult to get under control," Peggy said. "I finally saw a doctor who prescribed Dilantin. I would take that medication for the next 56 years."

While Peggy believed that stressful situations could incite her seizures and did her best to avoid such triggers, the seizures only worsened. She experienced one or two seizures every month, and the after-effects of each would last for two to three days.

"They were never under control," she said. "They just got worse and worse."

Dr. Carol Ulloa and Peggy Ann BellNew hope through expert care

Later in life, Peggy moved to Kansas City. There, she learned for the first time about a type of doctor who specializes in epilepsy, an epileptologist

"That is what I needed," Peggy said. "I wanted to see a seizure doctor, someone who knew everything there was to know about seizures and controlling them."

Peggy's search led her to epileptologist Carol Ulloa, MD, director of epilepsy care services at The University of Kansas Health System, which offers the only Level 4 Epilepsy Center in the state of Kansas. After evaluating Peggy's history, Dr. Ulloa selected a medication that had a different mechanism of action from those Peggy had tried in the past. The medication change enabled a clear improvement.

"This has really helped me," Peggy said. "I noticed a big difference right away. I have had exactly one seizure since seeing Dr. Ulloa more than six months ago. One seizure. That's a very big change for me."

"A specialist brings this extra level of understanding of the different seizure medications and how they work," Dr. Ulloa said. "We can identify the type of medication that may be more likely to help each individual patient."

Personalized care

Peggy appreciates that Dr. Ulloa offers a range of medication therapies that give her choices other than surgery. While she would be a good candidate for surgical options, it is not a route that interests Peggy at this time.

"You do have to be responsible when you have epilepsy, and you have to do your part," Peggy said. "I don't drive. I take my medicine. I listen to my doctor. Dr. Ulloa is a wonderful doctor, and I am just so thankful for her."

Peggy visits Dr. Ulloa about every four months.

"Peggy's future looks bright," Dr. Ulloa said. "The longer we can keep her from having a seizure, the more confident we can be that another won't occur."