Epilepsy Association of Utah

Dravet Syndrome

Seize: The Story – Jessie Christensen

Jessica was born a beautiful child and developed normally and hit all milestones just like she should until she had her first seizure at 9 months old. Her second and third followed, and in the first year she had 8 seizures. We started her on medication as advised by the doctors, but the seizures continued. Each year the seizures increased in number and severity as well as developing differing types of seizures. By the age of 3 Jessica was no longer developing normally, but starting to decline in her cognitive abilities and the drugs she was on were making the seizures worse not better. She was having long status seizures and then being paralyzed after for hours or days. We took her to the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia to try to reverse the brain damage and get a handle on her seizures. There we learned about cross-lateral patterning, and masking. The patterning helped with her coordination and the masking helped to keep the seizures shorter. but they continued.

At age 5 we took her to UCLA to see if she would be a surgical candidate, but were told the seizures were not localized to one place in the brain. She was on 6 seizure drugs at this time. The doctor’s didn’t know what to tell us as they couldn’t diagnose her with anything other than idiopathic/intractable Epilepsy. Basically that means we don’t know and can’t control it, so sorry. We tried many other non-traditional therapies, some of which helped a little, but most which didn’t help at all. She was eventually diagnosed at 7 1/2 years old with Dravet Syndrome. By this time she was having over 1200 seizures per year, sometimes as many as 30 per day. We travelled to Chicago to see the foremost specialist on Dravet Syndrome, Dr. Laux, and get advice as to what we should do for Jessie. She advised us as to the medications that seem to work the best and we worked to get Jessie on those three or four medications. Jessie has been on 17 anti-epileptic medications and the Ketogenic diet as well as many vitamins and supplements suggested by her doctors. She is now 14 still having daily seizures, although not as many, and functions at a 3 year old level.

Jessie loves to color and paint, do puzzles and matching games, bake cookies and brownies play at the park and watch videos. She loves her brother Matthew and her Grandpa. She has two golden retrievers named Shadow and Pillar and she loves to be with them as much as possible. They are very patient and gentle and allow her to lay all over them. Jessie loves her friends from school and always wants to go play at their houses. She is a pro at the iPad and can learn things on it we haven’t been able to teach her through traditional methods at school. We love having her in our family.

Rare Disease Story: Isaac

Dravet Syndrome

Isaac Sintz was born on August 5, 2006.  He was born a healthy child with no complications.  

At the age of 6 months he had a febrile seizure after immunizations.  Again at 9 months and 12 months Isaac had febrile seizures with immunizations.  At that point we stopped immunizations and we were told that he would outgrow the seizures.  He did stop having seizures.  He was in preschool reading and writing and doing very well.  He was even advanced for his age.  He had developed and progressed completely normal, until he was 3 1/2 years old.  

In December of 2009 Isaac had a non-febrile seizure at a birthday party.  It was a tonic-clonic seizure that seemed to last for hours, but in reality was maybe 4 minutes.  We have no idea why he would have a seizure completely out of the blue after all of these years.  After going to the emergency room, they told us his EEG was normal and he would still outgrow the seizures.  Exactly two weeks later he had another seizure.  After another trip to the emergency room, they then diagnosed him with epilepsy.  This was heartbreaking.  Why was my son, that was otherwise so healthy, having seizures?  

He began having seizures every day.  All of the seizures being tonic-clonic.  He was seizing and sleeping and never coming out of it.  He was put on a medication that didn’t help his seizures, but started to cause horrible fits of rage, crying, and horrible body pain.  Two weeks of that and we stopped that medication.  We continued doctors orders, trusting that they would be able to help my son and stop the seizures.  

Once again, the medication did not help control seizures at all, but caused horrible side effects.  

During the next couple months his seizures picked up pace at full speed.  He would seize every hour and then sleep, seize and sleep non-stop.  He wasn’t waking up to eat or take meds.  We were shoving meds down his throat to get him to take them.  We had to syringe fluid in to his mouth to keep him hydrated.  We were in the hospital for two weeks, out for one, in for three weeks, out for one, etc. for three months.  The doctors had no idea what was wrong with him.  They would get him stabilized and send us home.  The minute we were home, the nasty cycle would start all over again.  The rescue meds stopped working because we were using them so frequently.  Even when he was awake it was like he wasn’t alive.  He wasn’t able to talk or communicate to us.  We were carrying him around because he couldn’t walk.  He was back in a diaper.  

At one point, after being in the hospital on and off for months, they told us he would never walk or talk again.  Once again our hearts were shattered.  But there were no answers as to what was wrong with him.  Why was he having all these seizures and losing all of his abilities???  Finally they did some genetic testing while he was in the hospital.  We then got a call to tell us that he had Dravet syndrome.  

I had never heard of Dravet syndrome.  I immediately started researching this disease.  It was worse than anything I could have ever imagined.  The information I found told me that my son was going to have intractable epilepsy for the rest of his life despite medication.  That there was a high fatality rate and that he would not live in to adulthood.  That he would be mentally and physically disabled.  That my once healthy normal child would never be the same again.  We went through the grieving process.  We had lost the child that we once new. It felt like our world had been completely shattered, fearing the unknown and the unexpected.   

We love our Isaac more than words could ever express.  Our Isaac is just a new Isaac.  We have a new normal.  Our life has completely changed.  Because of Isaac’s seizure threshold we are not able to live as we used to.  

Isaac now has failure to thrive and is fed through a g-tube.  He doesn’t regulate body temperature and has seizures when he overheats.  He has ataxia and falls and hurts himself very easily, etc. We have to be very prepared every time we leave the house for any kind of emergency.  We can’t do a lot of the things we used to do because Isaac can’t mentally or physically handle the strain and commotion.  But, through these challenges, our family has grown closer together.  We don’t take anything or anyone for granted.  We appreciate each other more fully and respect each other for all that we have to sacrifice for each other.  We are loving each other through new and improved eyes.  This has changed us all for the better.  We have learned valuable life lessons and met incredible people dealing with similar things that we would have not met under any other circumstances.  We are so blessed.  

Isaac is doing much better now.  After meeting with doctors who specialize in his disease, we have been able to get him the treatment he needs.  Isaac is walking, talking, riding his bike, and going to special needs school.  We have also learned that there is more hope for Isaac with the more recent research on the outcome of the disease.  We have hope.  He may never learn to read or write, but he is still our little ball of fire that we are able to put our arms around and hug every single day.  To see his smile, makes it all worth it.  He is our Isaac and we love him more than anything in this world.

– April Sintz

Dr. Charlotte Dravet to Visit Salt Lake City



Salt Lake City, UT June 21, 2012 – At the invitation of the Epilepsy Association of Utah, world renowned French Epileptologist, Dr. Charlotte Dravet, will visit Salt Lake City on August 15-18, 2012. Dr. Dravet has agreed to meet patients affected by Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of Epilepsy named after her research efforts. Patients are invited to meet one on one with the doctor on Monday, August 13. Dr. Dravet will also be presenting an “Introduction to Dravet Syndrome” on August 14 from 9 – 11am for all medical professionals wanting to attend. Please RSVP to this event by visiting www.epilepsyut.org/dravet_registration.html.

“The opportunity presented to the people and medical community within Utah is unparalleled”, said Kris Hansen, President of The Epilepsy Association, “Never before has the Epilepsy Community in Utah had the occasion to meet someone of her caliber. We are honored that she agreed to spend so much time here. It’s a once in a lifetime chance”.

Schedule of Meetings/Events

Monday, August 13:
9:00am – 4:00pm     Patient Visits at University of Utah

Tuesday, August 14:

12:00pm                  Lunch – By Invitation Only
2:00pm                    University of Utah Research Lab Tour
7:00pm                    Dinner with Dr. Dravet – A minimum donation of $75.00 a plate is suggested

Wednesday, August 15:
10:00am                   Lecture at University of Utah – MD only

If you would like to participate in any of these events or have any questions, please contact:

Jenn Whiting
Kris Hansen

(801) 566-5949


Dr. Charlotte Dravet was mentored by Dr. Henri Gastaut (Lennox-Gestaut Syndrome) at the Centre St. Paul in Marseilles. Her interests were focused towards the explanationof syndromes in childhood Epilepsy, the psychological consequences of Epilepsy, the progressive Myoclonus Epilepsies and their genetics, the congenital malformations of the offspring of Epileptic women and related studies. Her main contribution was in Myoclonia Epilepsy; with emphasis on benign and severe Myoclonic Epilepsies in infancy. Dravet Syndrome, is now recognized as one of the most malignant syndromes at this age and is widely studied by other authors and clinicians as well as geneticists.

According to Davet.org, “Dr. Charlotte Dravet first described Dravet syndrome in 1978 as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI). The first seizures usually happen before one year of age, with no known cause other than fever or illness. Seizures progress to be frequent and do not respond well to treatment. They also tend to be prolonged, lasting more than 5 minutes. Other types of seizures, which are common in Dravet Syndrome, appear in early childhood, including myoclonic seizures, atypical absence, complex partial seizures and nocturnal seizures. Estimates of the prevalence of this rare disorder range from 1:20,000 to 1:40,000 births.”

Dr. Charlotte Dravet has been President of the French League Against Epilepsy and a member of the Commission on Classification of Epilepsies of the ILAE. She has participated in numerous congresses, lectures and is the author of a number of published works. Now retired, she continues to work in France and Italy to improve the care of people with Epilepsy.

Founded in 1973, The Epilepsy Association of Utah is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all individuals living with Epilepsy and seizure disorders. 1 in 26 people will develop Epilepsy at some time in their lives leading to over 150,000 people in Utah alone. Epilepsy is the 4th most common neurological disorder in the US after migraine, stroke and Alzheimer’s. The Epilepsy Association of Utah offers a public education program, statewide support groups, personal and professional advocacy, college scholarships, art exhibits, educational conferences, summer camp, and more. Visit http://www.epilepsyut.org for additional information.

Press Contact:     Lindsey Palmer
Email:                lindsey@epilepsyut.org
Website:             www.epilepsyut.org