Two years ago, Troy Lindberg was lucky to walk up a flight of stairs, or load dishes into a dishwasher.
Diagnosed with epilepsy in his teens, Lindberg went seizure free for three decades after undergoing brain surgery when he was 19. But in his mid-40s, the seizures returned. They were frequent—occurring multiple times in a single day—and devastating.
“I was basically a homebody in a cave,” Troy said. “It was nice to be able to get up and go to the bathroom without falling over, or go out and get the mail.”
Thanks largely to a neuro-stimulation device called the NeuroPace® Responsive Neurostimulator, Troy has experienced a remarkable turnaround in the last year. After suffering dozens of seizures in an average week—including some continuous seizures that lasted hours—Troy has now gone more than a year without a single episode.
The results surprised Lindberg and his care team, including University of Minnesota Health Epileptologist Zhiyi Sha, MD. Sha and others anticipated a 50- to 80-percent reduction after the device was activated in March 2015. What they got exceeded all expectations.
“There was a small possibility that this could happen, but we definitely did not expect this,” Sha said.
The NeuroPace transmitter uses electrodes implanted directly in the brain to monitor brain wave activity and detect seizures before they take hold in the brain. If it identifies unusual activity in the brain, the device administers electrical stimulation to stop the seizure and reset the brain to normal patterns. After implantation, the device remains passive for several months while it gathers information on the patient’s normal and epileptic brain activity. After members of the patient’s care team have compiled enough data, they ‘turn on’ the device and program it to prevent certain recorded brain patterns.
Lindberg felt some small “jolts” when his device was initially activated. Now, he doesn’t notice when the electrical stimulation is delivered.
Though he’s excited about Lindberg’s results on the device, Sha cautions against drawing generalized conclusions from Troy’s case.
Two other University of Minnesota Health patients have also received the device. Though they have experienced improvements, Lindberg’s case is an outlier, Sha says. The two still meet for appointments once every three months. There, Sha reviews Lindberg’s medications, administers blood tests and downloads brain activity records from the NeuroPace system and adjusts the parameters of the device.
“It’s still too early to make any accurate predictions at this point,” Sha said. “We just have to continue to monitor. But a year free of seizures is still a very good result, one that gives us a good hope that he’ll be seizure free for a much longer period of time.”
Still, it’s a marked improvement for Lindberg, who was once bedridden and unable to work. Now, he works full time in a grocery store, attends school for business management, participates in a bowling league and supports his wife, Rhonda Lindberg.
“I can actually do my share around the house, inside and out,” Troy Lindberg said. “It’s nice to go to work. I can go up and down the stairs, do laundry, and I don’t have to worry about ending up on my head.”
Lindberg also reapplied for and received his driver’s license—which he lost for more than 5 years as a result of the seizures. He often drives during the nine-hour trip from South Dakota to Minneapolis, a task that would have been impossible prior to receiving the Neuropace.
“You never knew when the seizures were coming, or how many he would have,” Rhonda Lindberg said. “It was just horrendous to think what he went through. He’s definitely a fighter.”
“The only thing we need now are more hours in the day.”