The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 30, 2014

Medical miracles | Mom, baby benefit from tech advances

JOHNSTOWN — Medically speaking, these are amazing times were are living in.

Advances have been made in diagnosing various cancers, such as breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men and colon cancer, and treating them before they become life-threatening. Advances also have been made in treating heart disease. Also, worn-out joints such as knees, hips and shoulders are being replaced with space-age materials that enhance quality of life. The list goes on and on.

And we can’t ignore the steps taken to understand and treat epilepsy, as Megan Adams-West will attest. The Johnstown resident underwent life-changing surgery three years ago that virtually eliminated the seizures she had lived with since she was first diagnosed with the disease when she was 8.

Adams-West told our Kelly Urban that she was able to keep her seizures under control until she became pregnant. Then, she began having as many as 12 seizures a day, forcing her to relinquish her driver’s license and leave work.

“I thought my life was over,” she said. “I felt depressed and had to have everyone take care of me.”

What should have been a joyous time in her life, welcoming her son into the world, instead turned into one of the darker moments as her seizures worsened.

“I couldn’t be alone with my son, and that killed me,” Adams-West said.

Specialists could only prescribe more medication, until she met with a local epileptologist, a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy. After studying her mountain of tests and scans, the epileptologist pinpointed Adams-West’s problem and suggested brain surgery.

She underwent successful surgery on Aug. 16, 2010.

“I kept getting better and better and no seizures,” she said. “After six months, I got my driver’s license back and was able to work again,” Adams-West said.

“This is why I say miracles do happen.”

And speaking of miracles, who can forget the heart-wrenching story of baby Owen Sheridan, who was born with a nearly seven-pound encephalocele on his head at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.

Doctors at Memorial weren’t able to operate on Owen, and the family began searching for a hospital to treat the infant. A surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital performed life-saving surgery on Owen on Jan. 3.

“They worked a miracle on our child,” Kevin Sheridan, Owen’s daddy, told our Tom Lavis. “They did what no other hospital that we could contact was willing to do.”

Although Owen has long road ahead of him, he has returned to the family’s Upper Yoder Township home and is settling into a routine.

“He’s eating nonstop and hasn’t missed a meal yet,” Sheridan said.

“It’s our obligation to give hope to the hopeless,” Sheridan said. “We would have cherished a story like ours knowing that there is hope, no matter what the diagnosis.”

Yes, we all have hope and faith in the medical community and the research that is being done daily in advancing treatments for the many diseases that face mankind. Smallpox has been basically eradicated and vaccines have been developed that have kept polio, diphtheria, chicken pox, malaria, tet-anus and measles in check.

We applaud the medical profession and those who continue to seek new life-saving advances.

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