How Cincinnati Children’s Division of Neurology is inspiring kids with epilepsy to reach new heights 

When 15-year-old Jireh hits the stage, no one can take their eyes off of him. Dressed head to toe in silver, he looks like a robot. His animation dance style, with arm waves, syncopated footwork and body tics, makes him move like one too. That flair got him all the way to the television show America’s Got Talent, but uncovering his passion for dance might have never happened if he didn't have a seizure nine years before. 

Jireh was a normal bubbly little guy—until he wasn’t. “One night just before his sixth birthday, Jireh came into our room and woke us up saying, ‘I’m not ready to die,’” his mom LaGina remembers. “That’s not something you ever want to hear as a parent.” 

A few hours later, Jireh was convulsing and a terrified LaGina immediately called 911. The paramedics administered medicine which stopped his seizure, but it only worked for a short time. During the ride from their home on the west side of Cincinnati to the doors of our Emergency Department, Jireh seized three more times, until our care team was able to get them under control. 

“Once he was admitted, Jireh had every test under the sun,” says LaGina. And then that night they got the news— Jireh was one of the 470,000 kids living with epilepsy. 

World-Class Care in our Hometown

Luckily for Jireh and his family, they were in the best possible hands. Cincinnati Children’s Division of Neurology and Neurosurgery is ranked No. 2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Since its founding in 1972, the Division of Neurology and Neurosurgery has become one of the nation’s premiere centers for education, research and treatment of neurological disorders in children, adolescents and young adults. We see more than 32,000 patients each year for conditions such as epilepsy, migraines, cerebral palsy and neurobehavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Today, our 35 pediatric neurologists offer 18 sub-specialty programs and clinics, providing care for the common to the most complex neurological conditions. The depth and breadth of our expertise, along with novel therapies and available clinical trials, attract patients from all 50 states and around the world.

“Having a seizure can be very frightening for a child and their family,” explains Andrew Hershey, MD, PhD, director of the division. “Early recognition and appropriate evaluation and treatment can significantly change the lives of the patient and the family.”

Dr. Hershey lays out why Cincinnati Children’s can achieve such great success. “Our epilepsy program has all of the tools to assure the best outcome, including the world’s leading specialists and surgeons working as a team to treat seizures,” he describes, “Having these full range of tools and working with the families to develop a plan has the best chance to reduce the burden of epilepsy on the patient and their families.” 

Jiving and Thriving 

A hallmark of the Cincinnati Children’s experience is our family-centered approach to care. Families and clinicians work together to ensure the best possible outcome for kids. 

he care Jireh received reflects the division’s ability to use all medical options. “I’m so grateful to the doctors for everything they’ve done to help my son,” LaGina praises. 

Jireh’s family and his care team partnered to find the best treatment to control his seizures. They landed on a medication that keeps them at bay, and doctors also identified some lifestyle changes that would help. Unfortunately, one of the recommendations for Jireh was no contact sports. 

He was disappointed he couldn’t play football like his friends, but it didn’t keep Jireh down. He started watching videos of Michael Jackson and taught himself to dance. “Being restricted from athletics made him focus on something he could do and brought out this gift he didn’t even know he had,” LaGina says, smiling. 

Jireh has now gone four years without a seizure. His life isn’t defined by epilepsy, but rather his passion for the arts. He dances, plays drums and acts with the theatre program at his school. 

And while Jireh didn’t make it to the televised episodes of America’s Got Talent in 2017, he’s got his eyes set on the 2020 season. “He felt successful just because he went out and did it,” says LaGina, beaming with pride. “He chased his dream, and I know that one day, he’ll catch it.”

To support neurology research and care at Cincinnati Children’s, contact James Cleetus at 513-636-1166 or james.cleetus@cchmc.org.