In December 2014, Gregory Cascino, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic, received a photo of a former patient. Kate Seifert was standing at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, almost 20,000 feet above sea level, at the mountain’s Uhuru Peak. The photo was accompanied by a note from Seifert’s mother.
“We will be forever grateful for the miracle you and everyone at Mayo Clinic gave to Kate and our family,” wrote Karen Seifert.
The story of that miracle begins 20 years earlier, when Kate, then a high school student in Appleton, Wisconsin, began having seizures. “I had my first complex seizure in the middle of a basketball game,” she says. “I was on my way back to the bench and fell on the ground shaking.” After a visit to the emergency department and an appointment with her primary care physician, Kate was referred to a neurologist. She was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Initially, the diagnosis had seemed to come without warning. But as Kate learned more about the condition, she realized she had been having partial seizures for several months.
“I’d have episodes where I’d feel like someone else was controlling my thoughts, or times where the corners or a wall would look huge, but the rest of the wall would look normal,” Kate says. “My mom had wanted to take me to a psychiatrist.” As the family’s epilepsy education began, they realized these episodes were sensory seizures. Soon, Kate would be having those seizures daily.