Carla Harris felt as though she was alone after being diagnosed with epilepsy. She had no idea how common epilepsy was. Growing up in Raymore, Saskatchewan, Carla had never met another person with epilepsy when in fact; there are more than 10,000 people in Saskatchewan who have the disorder. Carla was not the only one.
Carla was an average 23-year-old university student studying for her Masters at the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business when she was diagnosed with epilepsy. She had acquired a brain injury as a child which ultimately led to her diagnosis. Growing up she didn’t feel as if she was any different from other children. She periodically experienced symptoms that felt like fainting spells or déjà vu and she was not aware there was something more serious going on.
Carla’s seizures became more intense and frequent while in university. She was admitted to the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at the University of Western Ontario Hospital and underwent monitoring to determine if she was a candidate for surgery.
“I was fortunate because in Ontario I had faster access to medical professionals and treatment than I might have had in Saskatchewan, which currently has only two epilepsy monitoring beds at RUH,” says Carla.
Currently, there is a two-year waiting list for epilepsy testing in Saskatchewan and over 500 referrals a year from all across the province. Testing helps determine whether a patient is a candidate for surgery which can eliminate or prevent seizures from worsening to potentially fatal levels.
“I was put on a short waitlist to receive surgery in Ontario. I underwent a successful left temporal lobectomy, removing the scar tissue damage from my left temporal lobe which would require me to re-learn language. Once healed, I came back to Saskatchewan to be with my family and was referred to Dr. José Tellez-Zenteno and his team at Royal University Hospital for further care,” explains Carla.
RUH Foundation’s Ready When You Aren’t Campaign has committed $1.2 million to expand the provincial epilepsy program to build a four-bed monitoring unit with upgraded equipment. Once built and equipped, the new unit will reduce wait times, anxiety and risk for hundreds of patients and their families across the province.
To support Saskatchewan’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit through the Ready When You Aren’t Campaign, donate online at ruhf.org or contact Lisa Sands, Director of Development, at 306.655.6477.