Joscelyn Dempsey is the daughter of Michael and Jennifer Dempsey of Mount Dora, Florida. Joscelyn suffered her first seizure at two months of age. Her mother Jennifer took her to the emergency room and they transferred her to another hospital for testing and treatment. An EEG test was performed but revealed nothing unusual. Since Joscelyn also suffered from acid reflux, her epilepsy was misdiagnosed as Sandifer’s Syndrome. Babies with Sandifer’s Syndrome often stiffen and curl their bodies to one side as a reaction to the pain of reflux and to protect their windpipes from the surge of stomach acid. Joscelyn’s parents continued bringing Joscelyn to her regular pediatrician and to a gastroenterologist in an effort to stop the “Sandifer’s” episodes. Medication would appear to work for a little while but the episodes always returned.
When Joscelyn was 11 months old, she had a more severe episode than her parents had ever seen and her lips turned blue for several seconds. Her parents requested a referral to a neurologist from Joscelyn’s pediatrician, where a second EEG and follow-up MRI revealed that Joscelyn had been born with a congenital brain abnormality called hemimegalencephaly. The left side of Joscelyn’s brain was larger than the right and malformed and was causing her to suffer with intractable epileptic seizures, which would eventually leave her severely disabled.
Her parents sought help from the doctors at the Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Florida Hospital for Children. Over the course of four weeks beginning in early July of 2012, doctors performed four separate surgical procedures to complete a hemispherectomy to remove the diseased left hemisphere of her brain in an effort to stop Joscelyn’s seizures and allow the healthy right side of her brain to take over the functions of the missing left half so that she could develop normally.
At the time of this writing, Joscelyn is recovering from the fourth and final brain surgery, is seizure-free and is already showing gains in her motor and cognitive development. It will be six months before doctors will be able to determine if the hemispherectomy procedure was a success and has “cured” Joscelyn of her epilepsy.
Her parents, doctors, friends and loved ones are very hopeful!