An Independent Life

Published On 03/02/2015

RNS® device gives patient with epilepsy a new outlook at life

As a teenager, Hannah Lawrence dreamed of becoming a Mississippi State Bulldog and earning her teaching degree. But when she began having uncontrolled seizures at 13 years old, Hannah fell behind in school, and her dreams of going to college were shelved.

After more than 10 years of seizures, Hannah received life-changing care at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and has renewed hope that she will be able to move forward with her life.Le Bonheur epilepsy patient Hannah Lawrence became the first U.S. patient to receive the NeuroPace RNS system at a pediatric hospital outside of a clinical trial.

In January 2015 Hannah became one of the first U.S. patients to receive the NeuroPace® RNS® system – a device implanted in beneath the scalp to help control her seizures – at a pediatric hospital outside of the clinical trial. Nationally, less than 800 people have an RNS system, and Le Bonheur is one of the few hospitals in the country to offer RNS therapy.

“Hannah can now do things without us like going shopping by herself, and we don’t have to worry as much,” said her mom, Rhonda. “The RNS has changed our lives. Independence is important to her.”

After her first seizure at 13, Hannah of Brandon, Miss., was transported to Blair E. Baston Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Miss. where she was diagnosed with viral encephalitis. Inflammation on her brain left scar tissue and caused uncontrolled seizures.

She came to Le Bonheur in 2007 when her pediatric neurologist suggested Hannah and her parents, Kenny and Rhonda, come to Memphis for advanced care. At Le Bonheur, Chief Neurologist James Wheless, MD, Pharm D, began exploring various treatment options for Hanna. Because medications did little to stop the seizures, doctors implanted a Vagus Nerve Stimulator, or VNS, a device that sends an electrical signal to her brain to stop or prevent a seizure. In 2010, Hanna had another surgery, a right temporal lobectomy, to help control the seizures and further brain surgery in 2013.

While each surgery improved her quality of life, Hannah still couldn’t live independently – she couldn’t drive and her parents were afraid of leaving her by herself. But Wheless, who also serves as co-director of the Neuroscience Institute, wouldn’t give up. He had hope that Hannah could live a life with fewer seizures. That’s when Le Bonheur neurosurgeons suggested they implant the RNS device. The Lawrence family jumped at the opportunity.

“We are able to offer therapy that is available nowhere else in the region, or sometimes in the United States,” Wheless. “These new therapies provide our patients with options that they would otherwise not have access to.”

The RNS device has dramatically reduced Hannah’s seizures, and the care and treatment she received at Le Bonheur has been life changing, Rhonda said. After more than 18 months with the RNS device, the 24-year-old has slowly become more independent.

She continues to work with her dad in the family’s barber shop, and Hannah still dreams of going to college and becoming a special education teacher.