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After 14 years of day and night seizures, Hannah Marsh has been seizure-free for five months.
Hannah, an 18-year-old senior at Carroll County High School, has suffered from seizures since she was 4. Doctors could find no reason for the seizures, which occur mainly at night. She has had as many as 40 in one night.
This changed five months ago when she underwent brain surgery at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. The surgery removed part of Hannah’s brain where the seizures originated; that portion of her brain had begun to turn black.
It took more than two years to get Hannah into the Vanderbilt hospital, but she said it was worth the wait. “There is not one person there that I don’t like,” Hannah said of the team that takes care of her there.
Hannah’s parents, James — known as Bo — and Shad Marsh, have suffered right along with their daughter as they cared for her and tried to find doctors and medicine that could alleviate the seizures. They also made lifestyle changes, such as not watching TV after 9 p.m. and eliminating caffeinated sodas and chocolate from their diets, all in an effort to control the number and severity of the seizures.
Today, Hannah continues to see a number of doctors monthly, from Warsaw to Nashville. She will begin the process of weaning herself off the anti-seizure medication in July, which could take seven years to accomplish.
Hannah documented her Nashville experience by keeping a scrapbook. She has photos of her medical team, and such mementos as the electrodes on her head before the surgery and her hospital bracelet. She also has one photo with her skull lifted and her brain exposed. She explains it all in a very matter-of-fact manner.
Immediately following the surgery, Hannah could not speak and couldn't use one leg and one arm. She said she could formulate the words in her head, but couldn’t get them out.
“It was so frustrating, sometimes I would tell the therapists I didn’t feel well enough to do it [therapy].”
Within a week, Hannah regained the use of her arm and her speech returned. The only residual problem is a "drop foot," which requires the use of a small brace to help her walk.
She went from a wheel chair to a walker and finally to a cane. One day, she decided she was done with it and put the cane away
Today, it would be difficult to look at Hannah and guess that she has been down such a difficult road.
She is pleased that the surgery has worked so well. She said for the first few months afterward, she was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. She would worry each night that the seizures would return.
“Now I go to bed and I don’t even think about it,” Hannah said. “It’s put my mind at ease.”
Before surgery, as Hannah approached college age, her family put their home at 209 Fifth St. in Carrollton on the market so they could move to wherever she wanted to go and help take care of her. But that won't be necessary if she continues to improve.
Hannah said she looks forward to getting her driving permit and a driver’s license, which will happen if she remains seizure free.
Becoming self-sufficient in things such as doing laundry, learning how to cook and taking care of herself also are things Hannah must learn to do now. She said she has a lot of catching up to do, but believes she is on track to graduate from high school this year, and looks ahead to a bright future.