• Neurosciences

    Baby a blessing for woman who had deep brain stimulation for epilepsy

Epilepsy patient Sheri Finstad with her husband and new baby in a neurology appointment

For nearly 10 years, Sheri Finstad suffered from seizures that couldn't be controlled with medication ― a situation that happens to roughly one-third of people with epilepsy. With the help of her epilepsy team and deep brain stimulation, Sheri Finstad was able to have a successful pregnancy.

Watch: Baby a blessing for woman who had deep brain stimulation for epilepsy.

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When Sheri Finstad looks down at her son, Isaac, in her arms, she says it amazes her.

"There were times that I thought we would never be at this point," she says.

That's because Sheri has epilepsy, and up until a few years ago, she was suffering from seizures that couldn't be controlled with medication. In 2013, as her seizures worsened and became more frequent, Sheri lost some of her independence.

"Eventually, I had to quit driving. And in doing so, it actually impacted my work," Sheri explains.

There were even times she thought she'd never be able to be a mom, which is something she has dreamed about since she was a young girl.

Sheri underwent a brain mapping procedure at Mayo Clinic to determine if she would be a candidate for epilepsy surgery.

"I was with Sheri through that evaluation, and I was a little disappointed because we found that she wasn't a candidate for epilepsy surgery," explains Dr. Gregory Worrell, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

While surgery wasn't an option, Sheri was a candidate for a new device that helps control seizures using tiny electrical pulses ― sort of like a pacemaker for the brain.

"It allows us to do two things we weren't able to do before: stimulate the thalamus and hippocampus bilaterally, and sense ― record from the brain ― so that we actually capture her seizures. Be able to use that information to refine, better inform how we adjust the therapy,” says Dr. Worrell.

The number of seizures started decreasing quickly. And once her seizures were better controlled with brain stimulation, Sheri talked to her care team about her desire to become a mother.

"We all sat down and put together a strategy for Sheri to … pull her medications back and give her the best chance of a successful pregnancy. And the neurostimulation had a lot to do with that because her seizures were under such good control,” explains Dr. Worrell.

In February, baby Isaac was born.

"We love these examples because it, of course, motivates us all, and it's why we do it," says Dr. Worrell.

While Sheri's seizures aren't completely gone, she only has about one per month in her sleep. She will continue to see her neurologists for follow-ups and adjustments. "I joke around with my doctors now that I'm their boring patient. When I come here, I'm like, 'Hey, I'm the boring patient now,'" says Sheri.


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