Woman feeling captive in own home due to epilepsy

Woman feeling captive in own home due to epilepsy

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Imagine being captive in your own home. For one area woman, that has been her life for the past 14 years.

Stephanie McNeil was diagnosed with epilepsy at 18 years old and she experiences three types of seizures: grand mal, petit mal, and nocturnal. McNeil had seizures while driving, which led to numerous car wrecks, and her driver’s license was taken away when she was 18 to prevent more accidents.

McNeil says living with epilepsy is a near constant struggle.

“You’ve basically lost your whole freedom," she said. "I lost my license back in 2005 and you can’t do what you want to do and you can’t get out and do anything that you like. You don’t really have any friends anymore.”

In 2012, McNeil had brain surgery. Doctors took out her right temporal lobe in hopes of decreasing future seizures, but now, she has seizures on both sides of her brain.

She has to take multiple pills a day and her seizures are triggered by flashing lights, stress, anxiety, and listening to music.

McNeil says the main type of seizure she has is absence.

“I stare off into space and every other word out of my mouth is, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine' or 'I’m OK’ and I have a blank stare. I smack my lips,” McNeil says.

Two dogs help McNeil when she has seizures. She says her dog Honey won’t leave her side and her other dog Gumbo will start barking.

A Duke neurologist told McNeil she is the first woman in southeastern North Carolina to get automatic vagus nerve stimulation, an electrical device like a pacemaker implanted under the skin aimed at reducing seizures. The neurologist also said she is the first person in the area to get a responsive neurostimulation device, a brain responsive treatment designed to prevent epileptic seizures at the source.

According to epilepsy society, there are more than 100 types of seizures. Thousands of people live with different types of epilepsy.

If you’re worried you might have signs of it, contact the New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s neurology department.

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