Doctors Remove Part of Cheerleader's Brain to Stop Seizures

PHOTO: Whitney Henry, seen here, had a part of her brain removed to stop seizures that she was having 30 to 50 times a day.
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It was a stunt that happened before her junior year of high school that Whitney Henry would never forget.

Henry and her cheerleading teammates were practicing a stunt that involved tossing one girl, the flyer, into the air. The routine quickly went awry when the flyer jumped out of the stunt, slamming her head into Henry's face. Henry's two front teeth were knocked out.

While the dental debacle was damaging to her smile, Henry would only learn later how much of an impact this accident would have on her life, and that it would eventually lead surgeons to remove a chunk of her brain.

Henry suffered her first episode six months after the accident. She recalled that she could not speak for about two minutes and experienced intense déjà vu.

"I didn't know if I was just different or if I was having a seizure or what," said the now 20-year-old Henry.

It turned out that it was a seizure and after the first episode, the seizures became more intense and frequent. She experienced 30 to 50 per day. And as a junior in high school, Henry would often have seizures while in school.

Frustrations at Every Turn

The frustrations continued when Henry sought medical help for her mysterious condition. She went through six neurologists and 13 anticonvulsant medications without any improvement.

"It was maddening," said Henry. "I had no quality of life at all."

Despite being an active child and teenager, Henry could no longer exercise because workouts and an accelerated heart rate triggered even more seizures.

Between the anti-seizure medications that caused weight gain and the lack of exercise, Henry gained 45 pounds in a few months.

"I looked awful and I felt awful and I had no self-esteem," she said.

One neurologist left a particular memory after he gave her a new medication and discouraged her from surgery.

"He told me, 'I don't think you need an ice cream scooper taken to your brain,'" recalled Henry.

Symptoms of Seizures

While Henry never convulsed during her seizures, she became paralyzed during the episodes and could become extremely paranoid, lose her ability to speak and sometimes even euphoric afterwards. Henry often woke up in the middle of the night after suffering a seizure, convinced that people were in her room.

"Usually I would need someone to calm me down because I would get so paranoid and so shaken up," said Henry. "And if I had a cluster of seizures, four or five back to back, I'd have a sense of euphoria."

During her euphoric states, Henry said she'd become giggly, while her eyes would become large and glassed over. "One time I was sent me home from school because I was considered a distraction to the classroom," said Henry. "They thought I was high."

Between debilitating seizures, and the memory loss and paranoia that came along with the regular episodes, Henry's grades plummeted her junior year.

Seizures Seize Quality of Life

"I was a 4.0 student before the accident, and I graduated high school with a 2.9," said Henry. "I've had to re-learn how to learn. I used to go listen to teachers and not even have to take notes or study for the test, and now I have to study study study."

Because high school suddenly proved to be so difficult, Henry doubled up on her classes and actually graduated one year early because of the condition.

"I knew that staying there another year was not feasible," she said.

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