“Katie was not born with a seizure disorder. She acquired one,” says Melrose, Katie’s mother.
In January 2005, Katie, an honor student and elite athlete, came home from swim practice with a headache. Within 24 hours, she developed a 104.5 degree fever. After the fever subsided, Katie insisted on going back to school, which is where her first grand mal seizure occurred. She was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with viral encephalitis as her brain began to swell. The doctors called Katie’s situation “very grave” and weren’t sure she would even make it through the night.
To control the seizures, she was put into a medically induced coma. Several attempts to bring her “up” failed. After 35 days, the doctor made a medication change that stopped Katie’s brain from seizing, finally allowing her to come out of her coma.
Six weeks later, her seizures began again. Over the next year and a half, Katie was on seven different anti-seizure medications. But she was still suffering from nearly 50 seizures a month.
“We knew we were dealing with a very difficult situation, and we were told that there would only be a 5% chance that any other medication would be effective in controlling Katie’s seizures,” says her mother.
That is when Katie and her parents began researching the ketogenic diet. Impressed with the initial studies, they took Katie to the Epilepsy Unit at the Children’s Medical Center at the Medical College of Georgia. At 19, Katie was the center’s first ketogenic patient.
The diet soon began to work. Katie’s monthly seizure count went from 6-12 a month to 1-3 a month.
Recently, the family discovered KetoCal, which has provided Katie with more food options, including blueberry muffins and pancakes.
“Just those two foods make a world of difference to her,” says Katie’s mom.
Using the ketogenic diet has dramatically reduced Katie’s seizures. Though certainly not the easiest diet for a busy 19-year-old, she makes it work. And the results are definitely worth her effort – she has gone from 50 seizures a month to less than three a month.
Katie’s life has changed dramatically in the last year and a half. She is not away at college on a swimming scholarship like she had anticipated. But she has a full, rewarding life, thanks to the ketogenic diet. She takes classes at her local college. And she is back in the pool, working with children with disabilities in the Adapted Aquatics Program at her neighborhood YMCA.
Although her life is not what she expected, Katie’s mother says, “she is most determined to continue to live her life and accomplish her goals, and we have no doubt that she will.”