4-year-old Thriving After Surgery to Drastically Reduce 100+ Daily Seizures   

4-year-old Thriving After Surgery to Drastically Reduce 100+ Daily Seizures

Israel De La Cruz

Four-year-old Israel De La Cruz has already faced more challenges than many people do in a lifetime. Thankfully, this little boy has a strong advocate in his mom and the backing of an expert medical team to help him.

Before Israel was born, he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid deep within the brain that can damage brain tissues and cause a range of problems. “At my 30-week ultrasound, they told me Israel had hydrocephalus. It was a big shock with lots of emotions flowing,” says Israel’s mother, Shukreeah De La Cruz, who also has an older daughter, Khloe.

At only two weeks old, Israel had his first surgery to implant a shunt, a tubing system to help drain the extra cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) fluid from his brain, at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Israel was also diagnosed with epilepsy when he was only a few months old. Despite efforts to control his seizures with medications, they continued to worsen. In spring 2018, when Israel had been experiencing about 30 seizures a day, he was admitted again to Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital.

Finding Specialty Care

Shukreeah decided to contact Lawrence Daniels, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, whom she had met a few months earlier at a charity event for hydrocephalus.

“I talked to the team that was taking care of him, and we devised a plan together,” says Dr. Daniels. After Shukreeah shared videos of Israel’s different types of seizures, Dr. Daniels concluded that Israel was experiencing not only seizures but also opisthotonos, severe full-body muscle spasms that resemble seizures. “It wasn't just that he was having seizures. He was having another abnormal movement that was being mistaken for seizures.”

Dr. Daniels performed a successful surgery on a large cyst that was compressing Israel’s brainstem. Over the next couple of years, Israel’s medical team continued medications to control his epileptic seizures, but as he got older, his seizures worsened.

“Israel was exhibiting seizure activity on both sides of his brain in multiple areas. Through our multidisciplinary conferences with the teams at Jersey Shore and Hackensack, we came to a consensus that there was an opportunity to significantly decrease Israel’s seizures,” says Dr. Daniels.

In August 2020, Israel underwent two more surgeries at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital: First he underwent a craniotomy for placement of subdural grids, that involved removing a part of Israel’s skull and placing electrical leads on the surface of the brain to detect the origins of his seizures. After a couple of days of collecting seizure information on the surface of Israel’s left hemisphere, he underwent a second surgery that involved a radical removal of his temporal lobe and a procedure to disrupt the abnormal electrical signal in his frontal lobe where the seizures originated. Dr. Daniels led the multidisciplinary surgical team, which included surgical epileptologist Rajesh Sachdeo, M.D., and others, that performed real-time monitoring of Israel’s brain activity to guide the removal and disruption of the seizure causing areas.

Finally Living His Life

Prior to the second surgeries, Israel was experiencing multiple seizures a day. Today, while he still has seizures, the number has dramatically decreased. “To control his seizures to the extent that we've done gives him an opportunity to grow and develop, and gives him the best opportunity to have as fruitful a life as possible,” says Dr. Daniels.

Shukreeah is grateful to Dr. Daniels and the team for the difference they’ve made in Israel’s life. “Before the only way to get him to stop seizing was to give him the rescue meds and put him to sleep. He was sleeping so much that he wasn't living life at all,” says Shukreeah. “Fast forward to today, Israel is in school. He has his own language, as we like to say, and he’ll talk your ear off. He has come such a long way.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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