Patient Stories | Tyler is Seizure-Free

Years after Epilepsy Surgery, Tyler’s Ambition Leads to Success in Life

From the time he was 8, Tyler’s life was limited. He suffered up to 15 seizures a day and struggled to communicate, walk and retain memories. But after epilepsy surgery at Cincinnati Children’s, his life opened up in ways he never thought possible. 

Earning a master’s degree and starting a company by age 23 is an impressive feat for anyone. But for Tyler Stapp, who suffered multiple seizures a day for much of his childhood, the accomplishments are especially remarkable.

“I was told I’d never have a job, that I wouldn’t go to college,” said Tyler, now 24. “I was told I essentially had a disability and didn’t have a future.”

Tyler, from Russell Springs, KY, was 8 years old when he started having seizures. “We were at home, and my mom noticed that I was staring into space,” he recalled. Tyler was diagnosed with epilepsy and started taking medicines designed to control the seizures. Unfortunately, none of them worked, at least not for long.

“There were some days when I’d have 15 seizures a day,” Tyler said. “While I was asleep, awake, all the time. It was very stressful for my family. At school, a lot of kids made fun of me. I’d go to the bathroom on myself or fall down because of a seizure while walking down the hall. I struggled with memory, communicating. I didn’t have much of a school presence.”

When Tyler was 14, his doctor in Lexington recommended surgery to treat intractable epilepsy, which is diagnosed when medicines aren’t working to control seizures. Tyler’s parents decided they wanted a second opinion and looked to Cincinnati Children’s.

A Seizure-Free Goal

The family had a consultation with the neurology team at Cincinnati Children’s, who performed testing to determine whether Tyler was a good candidate for surgery.

“Several of the tests we ran pointed to the left temporal lobe, and his seizures seemed to be coming from the left temporal lobe,” said Francesco Mangano, DO, chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery and director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery Program.   

In May 2015, Dr. Mangano performed a craniotomy, surgically removing part of the bone from Tyler’s skull to expose the brain. He then attached grids to the top of Tyler’s brain that connected to an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine—a device used to record electrical activity of the brain—allowing his team to monitor Tyler’s seizure activity.

Once Dr. Mangano confirmed through EEG testing that Tyler’s seizures were stemming from the left temporal lobe, he scheduled a temporal lobectomy to remove part of the lobe. The surgery took place a little more than a week later, on Tyler’s 16th birthday.

The temporal lobe, which is the part of the brain associated with hearing, memory, emotion and some aspects of language, is a common location for seizures to originate, Dr. Mangano said. That’s why a temporal lobectomy in patients who meet the standard guidelines can achieve a high rate of success. Roughly 70% to 75% of patients, in fact, stop having seizures altogether after the surgery.

Although some patients with epilepsy need to continue taking medicine after a temporal lobectomy, that wasn’t the case for Tyler. He’s been seizure-free since the surgery.

“The way we think about surgical success is with the addition of a surgical procedure to the existing medical management,” Dr. Mangano said. “If we combine surgery and medicine, can we get the patient to be seizure-free?”

Dr. Mangano notes that, today, a patient like Tyler could achieve the same successful outcome without the initial craniotomy.

“Just eight years later, we wouldn’t need to necessarily do the grid monitoring procedure,” he said. “We could get the same outcome with a much less invasive approach. While the temporal lobectomy would remain the same, the approach leading up to it is typically better tolerated by patients and carries with it a lower risk of complications.”

An Amazing Transformation

For Tyler, the difference in his pre-surgery and post-surgery life is nothing short of night and day.

“I was a junior in high school at the time of my surgery, and when I went back to school, I started making straight As,” he said. “In one year, I raised my GPA from a 1.9 to a 3.79 and graduated on time.”

After high school, Tyler attended Somerset Community College in Somerset, KY, where he was elected president of the student government association and appointed to the board of directors. He also was recognized for devoting 3,000 hours of community service to renovating a building on campus so students would have a place to meet and study.

In 2020, Tyler graduated early from Somerset with three associate degrees, including his license as a certified nursing assistant, or CNA. He then earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and Master of Business Administration with a concentration in healthcare from University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, KY, where he was also active with the student government association.

Tyler launched his own consulting and advocacy services company, called Stapp’s Enterprises, to help nonprofit healthcare organizations in Kentucky reduce their contract labor costs and increase in-house employment. Since the company’s founding in 2022, Tyler estimates it’s provided roughly $48 million in cost savings to Kentucky healthcare organizations.

Tyler, who is now pursuing a career in healthcare administration, is also a member of the 2023 class of Leadership Kentucky - BRIGHT, a professional development program for young leaders in the Appalachian region of Kentucky.

In his free time, Tyler likes to travel and play golf, and he’s working toward getting his private pilot’s license—all things he never dreamed he’d be able to do before his surgery.

“It’s totally transformed my life,” he said. “I had the ambition beforehand, but I was having so many seizures, I couldn’t do anything with it.”

Thanks to the life-changing surgery he received at Cincinnati Children’s, now he can.

(Published October 2023)