Doctors disconnect half of teen’s brain to stop debilitating seizures

Published On: Sep 24 2013 07:26:55 AM HST

Lauren Bell loves her family, animals and music, like many teenage girls, but her life has been anything but normal.

Lauren has epilepsy and suffered severe seizures that made it difficult for her to function, but her family said a recent surgery has given her the chance at a more normal life.

“She was beginning to lose the ability to do things in school that had been easier for her earlier,” Dr. James Baumartner, a surgeon at Florida Hospital, said. 

To stop the seizures, doctors recommended a hemispherectomy --disconnecting the entire right half of Lauren’s brain.

“Immediately you start Googling hemispherectomy, because you don't even know what that word means,” Lauren’s father, Jeff Bell, said.

 “We had just a couple days to make the decision because they had the slot open and the doctors were telling us not to wait,” Lauren’s mother, Leslee Bell, said.

The decision wasn’t easy.

“For years, we've been praying for her not to have any more seizures, and we said, 'We believe we have a doctor who can help you have no more seizures. He really believes that,'” Jeff Bell said.

Lauren had the hemispherectomy in January at Florida Hospital. Baumgartner removed large areas of Lauren's brain.

Lauren woke up from surgery unable to talk, and the left-side of her body was paralyzed.

“We would squeeze each other's hand three times. That meant, ‘I love you.’ We knew that even if she couldn't speak to us, she could communicate. It was pretty special," Leslee Bell said.

She started speaking 11 days later and soon regained control of her body.

Lauren's doctors said that while she shouldn't play contact sports, she is living a near-normal life without seizures.

“She could go to college, she could get a driver license," Dr. KiHyeong Lee said.

Lauren could not be happier.

“It feels much better. I sleep in peace. I don't have any more nightmares," Lauren said.


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