New epilepsy monitoring unit helps Louisville firefighter’s daughter

New unit at Norton Children’s Hospital provides extensive epilepsy testing and seizure monitoring.

Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute

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Bryce Carden’s name might sound familiar. He’s the Louisville firefighter who heroically rescued a woman trapped in a semi hanging off the side of the Clark Memorial Bridge earlier this year.

The team at Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of medicine, was able to play hero for Bryce’s daughter, Oaklynn, thanks in part to a new epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) at Norton Children’s Hospital. The unit has specialized equipment to monitor a patient’s brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG).

Oaklynn, now 18 months old, was born prematurely at 33 weeks and spent nearly three months in the neonatal intensive care unit at Norton Children’s Hospital. Her family knew she was arriving early, but they didn’t know about another condition. Oaklynn has subclinical seizures, which occur due to abnormal electrical activity within the brain. The symptoms aren’t noticeable — even to the patient—but can lead to a variety of disorders if left untreated.

“People think epilepsy and seizures, like convulsing, but it’s not like that,” Bryce said. “We can’t tell, and that’s why we have to come in for the EEGs.”

Before this year, Oaklynn’s parents would visit a much smaller space at Norton Children’s Hospital to monitor her seizures. But now, she and other epilepsy patients are staying in the hospital’s new epilepsy monitoring unit.

The eight-bed EMU is a dedicated unit for extensive epilepsy testing and seizure monitoring. It helps doctors establish the correct diagnosis, determine the exact kind of epilepsy a child has and develop treatment options. Once just four beds and attached to another unit, the EMU now has its own dedicated space, allowing doctors, nurses and staff to be closer to the patients at all times.

“We have a wonderful team dedicated to helping children with epilepsy, and this unit helps us provide a higher level of care,” said Cemal Karakas, M.D., pediatric neurologist with Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute.

While in the EMU, patients are hooked up to equipment that monitors brain activity. In another room, specially trained technicians monitor the results to help understand the type of seizures and where in the brain those seizures are located.

“Once you have more data, there’s definitely more to analyze and more to understand,” Dr. Karakas said. “All of this helps us provide better treatment to the patient.”

The unit is the result of a $3 million investment. A portion of the funding was provided through a grant from the WHAS11 Crusade for Children to the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.

“We’re so grateful to the Crusade and the community for helping to create a healthier community for all of us,” said Lynnie Meyer, R.N., Ed.D., FAHP, CFRE, senior vice president and chief development officer, Norton Healthcare. “Just imagine the impact we can have when everyone comes together to support our children and families.”

The Cardens agree

“This new unit helps us feel more comfortable coming to the hospital,” said Caitlynn Carden, Oaklynn’s mom. “She can keep calm and not have a lot of distractions. This is amazing for us as a family.”

“Oaklynn is my baby girl,” Bryce said. “We’re so appreciative for the team at Norton Children’s and this new unit so that Oaklynn can get the care she needs.”

Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute is part of the “Just Imagine” campaign, a visionary journey that will help bring better health to children throughout Kentucky, Southern Indiana and beyond. Just imagine what your help can do.