Seizure-free after surgery, Jessica Rostock prepares to become an operating room nurse
After suffering debilitating seizures for decades, Jessica Rostock – nursing student, wife and mother – underwent surgery at The University of Kansas Health System to remove part of the frontal lobe of her brain to eliminate epilepsy. Now 18 months after surgery, Jessica is seizure-free and living life to the fullest. Here, she reflects on her experience and new lifestyle, and offers encouragement for others seeking lasting treatment for epilepsy.
Are you happy with the results of your surgery?
I am very happy with the surgery results. I am cured! I have no seizures.
Before I sought care at The University of Kansas Health System, I had been treated for epilepsy for 32 years. I was treated with a variety of medications with varied results. Exhausted and frustrated by the lack of lasting treatments, I looked to The University of Kansas Health System. I found Dr. Patrick Landazuri, and he was the best help I ever had. He and Dr. Paul Camarata together found a cortical dysplasia in my frontal lobe, a birth defect I had had for my entire life. Despite multiple MRIs in my lifetime, no one else had ever seen it. Once the team here discovered the cause of my epilepsy, they were able to remove it.
I feel so lucky and thankful to have found help here.
Describe a typical day in your life.
I take nursing classes. I do my homework. I work as a surgical technician in labor and delivery at Shawnee Mission Hospital. I volunteer in my son's kindergarten classroom. My family and I go to the park and the movies, and, in rare spare time, I like to read.
What I don't do is worry about whether I'll have a seizure at a dangerous or embarrassing or inconvenient time. It's such a freedom!
How did the fear of having a seizure characterize your life before your surgery?
Living with epilepsy, I had a constant fear of a seizure coming on. What if I'm swimming in the pool and have a seizure? What if I'm speaking in front of a class and have a seizure? What if I'm in my son's classroom and have a seizure? What if I'm sitting in church and have a seizure? The fear was always there. It can be embarrassing and degrading to have to explain a seizure in a public place. And it was always frightening to think that I couldn't live my life like a normal person because of the constant threat of a seizure.
How is your life different now?
I have no seizures. I am never in fear of having one. And I am no longer constantly exhausted because of how draining the seizures could be.
What advice would you offer to others who might be considering surgery to address epilepsy?
I would tell them to take control of their care and find answers. Don't take any single option as concrete and final. If you're not happy with your care, get a second opinion, and a third opinion, and a fourth opinion if you need it. Also, please see a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy, an epileptologist. General neurologists are great doctors. I saw one for a long time. But epilepsy-focused neurologists are epilepsy experts. It only makes sense. They know more about the latest treatments and trends and are fully knowledgeable when it comes to options in epilepsy care.
I would also say to look seriously at surgery as a possible answer if you are a candidate. It can be a scary thought, but it could be a cure. Brain surgery was less scary to me than the thought of fighting seizures for the rest of my life. After a 3-month recovery, I returned to work, returned to school and returned to caring for my family. I could not have accomplished those things while having seizures. Yes, brain surgery is a big decision. But don't let it be fear that holds you back. Trust the experts.
Do you continue to communicate with your epilepsy care team?
Absolutely. The University of Kansas Health System's epilepsy care providers have an incredible passion for their work. It is impressive and inspiring to meet people with such drive. I had been on such a long and lonely journey, and these people showed me a positive light at the end of my tunnel. They made me feel like I was part of a team. I trust and respect them immensely.
What's more, I really hope to work with this team. I am about to graduate with my BSN, and I have been interviewing with The University of Kansas Health System. I am so thrilled! My goal is to work in neurosurgery one day. I have shadowed Dr. Camarata in the neuro OR, and I spoke with him at a neuroscience donor event. As a brain surgery patient, I felt safe and never scared. I felt that my team was invested in this journey with me. I was treated by educated, intelligent and innovative doctors who had my best interest in mind. I am so excited about the potential to become a part of that.
I know that the epilepsy care program and surgery schedule for epilepsy patients are growing, and I hope to use my experience and my voice to help these patients