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Banner Good Samaritan Epilepsy Monitoring Helps Special Needs Patient Beat the Odds


Designated Level 3 Comprehensive Epilepsy Center by the National Associate of Epilepsy Centers

PHOENIX (June 13, 2014) – Leah Tucker battles seizures every day of her life, from a couple to a couple dozen. She suffers from Hypothalamic Hamartoma, a benign tumor-like malformation that causes a syndrome characterized by seizures. Medical experts recommended an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) to help identify a new form of treatment.

However, Barbara Tucker, Leah's mother, worried that monitoring would last between three to five days, which her 36-year-old special needs daughter would not deal with too well. What she didn't know was that Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center’s EMU was recently recognized as a Level 3 Comprehensive Epilepsy Center by the National Associate of Epilepsy Centers.

This recognition means they have the professional expertise and resources to provide the highest level of medical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy issues. Finally, Leah and her mother had peace of mind going into the EMU for a full monitoring session, in hopes of getting answers on how to treat Leah's heart-wrenching disorder.

The six-bed state of the art Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at Banner Good Samaritan allows doctors to better assess a patient’s seizures or spells over several days in an inpatient setting through the use of various forms of testing and 24-hour monitoring. A referral to the EMU is done to conduct changes in anti-seizure medication in a safe and monitored environment, to evaluate for the possibility of anti-seizure medication discontinuation and to evaluate to see if a patient is eligible for surgery.

The EMU at Banner Good Samaritan is staffed 24/7 to ensure the quality and integrity of the recording of the seizures, as well as patient safety. Special accommodations and resources are tailored to each patient’s needs during  admission and the staff is dedicated to providing a unique and compassionate patient experience.

“We serve complex epilepsy cases that require tertiary care services at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center,” said Joseph Sirven, Medical Director for the EMU at the medical center. “Through a team-based approach that incorporates neurologists, neuropsychologists, nurses, EEG technicians, neurosurgeons and social work, the patient with complex epilepsy is treated holistically to find a solution that helps to improve the quality of their life and stop chronic disabling seizures.”

A visit to the EMU can be a long and stressful period of time for patients like Leah. The monitoring usually requires patients to stop taking some or all of their seizure medications, which can result in frequent, more intense seizures during monitoring. Also, some patients may be asked to remain awake some nights to provoke seizures.

Banner Good Samaritan offers a calming environment to help ease the process, including pet therapy sessions and playing a patient’s favorite movie to make things as comfortable as possible.

By the end of the admission, the epilepsy experts had not only captured the desired number of the patient’s typical seizure events and a new medication regimen was initiated as part of the new treatment plan, it was also a memorable patient experience.

“The staff at the medical center provided a DVD player and a wide selection of movies for Leah during her admission,” said a grateful Barbara, who now even works for Banner Good Samaritan.

”Our experience here was so amazing that I decided to join the Banner team and give back my appreciation for all they have done for my daughter,” Barbara said.

Leah’s stay at the EMU gave her family another look to see if surgery was a possible solution to her diagnosis. As of now this is not an option for Leah and the EMU helped them understand why.
“As Leah’s parents, we know that the doctors who care for Leah will keep us informed until there is another choice of treatment,” explained Barbara. “Until then, we wait and keep Leah as safe and healthy as we can.”

About Level 3 Comprehensive Epilepsy Center
A third-level center should provide the basic range of medical, neuropsychological, and psychosocial services needed to treat patients with refractory epilepsy. Third-level medical centers provide basic neurodiagnostic evaluation, as well as basic medical, neuropsychological and psychosocial services. These centers do not perform respective epilepsy surgery, although some may implant vagus nerve stimulators. Third-level medical-surgical centers provide basic diagnostic and treatment services.

In addition, these centers offer non-invasive evaluation for epilepsy surgery, straight-forward respective epilepsy surgery and implantation of the vagus nerve stimulator. It is important for people to seek out a certified epilepsy center for the following reasons:

  • An accurate diagnosis of your seizure type and seizure syndrome
  • Comprehensive epilepsy education for you and your caregivers

About Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center
Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz., is a large teaching hospital that has provided medical care to Arizona and the Southwest since 1911. The hospital specializes in heart care, cancer care, high-risk obstetrics, neurosciences and stroke care, organ transplants and Emergency care including a Level 1 trauma center. Banner Good Samaritan is part of Banner Health, a nonprofit health care system with 24 hospitals in seven states. For more information, visit and/or follow on Facebook.

If media would like to schedule an interview, please send an email or call the media on-call number at (602) 492-4770.

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