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.