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Melaija, future MD, now lives life without epileptic seizures

February 5th, 2019 · Leave a Comment

Like many teenagers, 16-year-old Melaija Quarterman has big dreams for her future. The 11th grader, who attends McIntosh County Academy in Darien, Ga., aspires to walk the runway as a fashion model. While her natural beauty and personality would shine on the catwalk, she recently decided that she wants to pursue a career in medicine after undergoing a life-changing surgery.

“After being at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Melaija wants to be a doctor,” said Cornelia Quarterman, Melaija’s mother. “She would like to begin volunteering at Wolfson Children’s.”

The Townsend, Ga., teen had epilepsy surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in July. Epilepsy is a brain disorder involving repeated, spontaneous seizures that are caused by an uncontrolled electrical discharge from nerve cells in the brain’s cerebral cortex.

Melaija was 11 when she first began experiencing seizures. While the episodes of twitching and lip smacking didn’t happen daily, they continued and became more pronounced as she grew older. Concerned, her mother took her daughter for a medical evaluation. Specialists were unable to arrive at a diagnosis or a treatment for the seizures.

“I knew something was wrong with my daughter and I wasn’t prepared to accept anything less than an answer,” Quarterman said.

Quarterman took Melaija to see Carmela Tardo, MD, a pediatric neurologist with the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville. Dr. Tardo ordered imaging, which revealed a tumor in Melaija’s left temporal lobe. Dr. Tardo recommended that the family consult with Alexandra Beier, DO, a pediatric neurosurgeon with the Stys Neuroscience Institute at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

After evaluation with Dr. Beier, Melaija was enrolled in the Pediatric Epilepsy Program at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Dr. Beier and Raj Sheth, MD, a pediatric epileptologist at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, ordered a number of diagnostic tests and started Melaija on medication to help control her seizures. Three months later, when the medication failed to control Melaija’s seizures and the tumor showed signs of growth, Dr. Beier recommended surgery.

“This was one of the scariest things to hear as a parent,” Quarterman said. “It was really hard for me but I had to be tough for Melaija.”

Dr. Sheth performed EEG monitoring, used to identify the part of the brain causing the seizures. The EEG monitoring showed the seizures were arising from the left temporal lobe, around the tumor.

Dr. Beier performed a left temporal lobectomy, a surgical procedure designed to remove portions of the brain’s temporal lobe to control seizures. Dr. Beier cautiously removed only the parts of the tumor causing seizures, leaving the parts of the brain responsible for speech and motor function untouched.

“We had to leave some of the tumor behind because it would have put Melaija’s speech and motor function at risk, but the procedure was successful,” Dr. Beier said. “We are pleased with the outcome.”

Prior to the surgery, Melaija was concerned about having her hair cut and head shaved for the procedure. Dr. Beier carefully braided Melaija’s hair to keep much of it intact, removing only the smallest amount of hair to accommodate the incision.

Following the surgery, Melaija spent three days recovering at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in the Pediatric ICU and on the Neuroscience Unit before she was discharged. Since the surgery, she has continued to be monitored by Dr. Sheth and has reported no seizures. Melaija is currently on seizure medication that will be gradually tapered off.

“I am so grateful we came to Wolfson Children’s Hospital,” Quarterman said. “Melaija received wonderful care. I knew we were in good hands and that we came to the right place.”

Whether you’re seeking answers about your child’s seizures or are looking for expert management of epilepsy, Wolfson Children’s Hospital has a skilled team ready to help. Wolfson Children’s provides a full range of epilepsy care for children, including monitoring, medical management and advanced surgical treatments for the most severe cases.

The Pediatric Epilepsy Center at the Stys Neuroscience Institute has the highest level 4 designation from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. This means that families in the Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia area have access to a nationally recognized, specialized center to service their needs.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital has been ranked repeatedly by U.S. News & World Report as one of the 50 best children’s hospitals in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery. Its team is involved in research and clinical trials and provides treatment options based on the latest medical advancements.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital provides pediatric neuroscience services in partnership with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville and the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

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