October 22, 2014

Brain Surgery Brings New Lease on Life

Brain Surgery Brings New Lease on Life

When Mary Grace Brockinton, of North Little Rock, went to her primary care doctor for severe headaches, she never imagined that a month later she would be having brain surgery.

At age 24, Brockinton was enjoying life with her family and friends. In September 2013, she began to have headaches. The headaches were severe and were occurring daily. Having recently taken a new job as a bank loan assistant, she assumed they were stress-related.

Mary Grace Brockinton talks with Demitre Serletis, M.D., Ph.D., in a follow-up visit after her surgery.

But the headaches worsened and started waking her up at night. It became hard to focus at work and home and over-the-counter medications were not helping. She began to experience strange, intermittent episodes of altered taste in her mouth.

She decided to seek help. “The headaches were getting in the way of my life,” Brockinton said. Her primary care physician gave her medication, but with no relief, she sent her for a CT scan. The scan showed a tumor in her brain. The unusual tastes she had been experiencing were likely early, seizure-related symptoms.

Brockinton came to UAMS to see Demitre Serletis, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery in the UAMS College of Medicine. Serletis talked her through a plan to have the tumor surgically removed.

“The way he explained everything from beginning to end, I left there thinking I could do this. It’s not going to be the end of the world, and it wasn’t,” she said.

Ten days later, Brockinton had surgery on Oct. 9, 2013. Serletis performed a right temporal lobectomy to remove the low-grade tumor and infiltrated lobe. This region of the brain, including its inner-most structures (the hippocampus and amygdala), is often involved in the onset of epileptic seizures and is one site of many that can develop such a tumor.

The surgery was successful. “My life felt immediately better after surgery. When you think brain surgery you think your life is over, but it’s really not that bad,” Brockinton said.

Without the early warning signs and seeking medical attention, Brockinton would have soon begun to have seizures and possibly developed epilepsy.

“Thankfully she picked up on the early warning signs and had the scan to discover the tumor,” Serletis said. “We were able to treat the problem early before she developed epileptic seizures.”

“I’m thankful that UAMS offered me help,” Brockinton said. “I can’t imagine having a seizure every day. I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I hadn’t gotten help here.”