Monitoring Seizures as They Occur

Seizures are unpredictable. Individuals who live with these random occurrences know all too well the challenges associated with monitoring, diagnosing and treating their debilitating, isolating and burdensome conditions.

That’s why Carla Harris is extremely grateful to donors who supported Royal University Hospital Foundation in raising $1.2 million to help build and equip the province’s first Seizure Investigation Unit (SIU) at Royal University Hospital, which opened in September 2023 in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Saskatchewan Health Authority.

“Having the four-bed SIU here in Saskatchewan is life-changing,” says Carla. “It is a safe environment to monitor seizures when they happen and to understand better why they occur and how best to treat them.”

The 43-year-old Regina writer was born in Raymore, SK where as a young child she had the first of many seizures that continue to this day. In 2004, while attending university in Ontario, Carla had the most feared of seizure types—a grand mal that causes a person to lose consciousness, have muscle jerks or spasms and cry out. Two years later she was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Many people living with seizure disorders or epilepsy can control them with medication. However, in some cases seizures are resistant to medication, and surgery can be an option, which is determined through in-depth monitoring.

Carla is one of nearly 100 patients from across the province who have been admitted to the seizure unit during its first seven months of operation. Patients are admitted for a period of a few days to many weeks. They are monitored around the clock using video cameras, microphones, and electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings that detect brain activity using electrodes attached to the scalp.

The SIU’s home-like atmosphere encourages patients to socialize with others in the unit, exercise, and do puzzles and other activities that could help trigger a seizure.

“It’s not easy just lying here trying to have a seizure,” Carla says with a smile.

At the end of her three-week stay in March, Carla learned new information about her health situation and was relieved to know she wouldn’t need surgery to address it. She continues with her medication, monitoring its effects, and having regular contact when needed with her seizure team members.

Carla is very thankful for the vision and dedication of everyone involved in establishing a dedicated seizure unit for the province at RUH and its evolving multidisciplinary team and patient-centred approach.

“They are all superstars in my eyes.”

Read more inspiring stories in our 2023–2024 Gratitude Report.