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Gelastic Seizures

Posted Jan 18 2011 1:13pm
Just when I find something new to happily relish over in the wondrously, amazing life of my little man living with hydranencephaly; I discover another reason for possible worry! There seem to always be the disruptions in the already chaotic life... these ever-occurring moments of, "What is this word and why have I never before heard of it?" 

As of late, this word, or in this particular case term, is gelastic seizures. WHAT? is exactly what I said... and if you're reading this and thinking, "this isn't anything new," then I'd kindly like to ask why you never shared this term with me? 

That said, the greatest sound to every parent's ears is the sound of their own child's laughter, fortunately I was blessed with this sound through my older girls prior to having Brayden so the thought that he may never laugh didn't entirely depress me. Nonetheless, I still longed to hear that sound from him... despite the popular medical belief that this was impossible. Might I note that Brayden does not know impossible, in fact, stolen from something I have read that was an Adidas ad campaign:

"Impossible itself says, 'I'm possible'."

apparently Brayden lives by that particular Adidas ad campaign.

Needless to say, the joyful sound of laughter has become increasingly more frequent in the past few weeks, sometimes without even being initiated or playfully induced. I chalked this up to him feeling right in the world, that we had reached a point that his body was in tuned to his environment... finally, even if only momentarily. This latter part is what I have suddenly become worried over, the laughter that is not tickle or silly-face induced... again a reminder of the negatives of too much research and knowledge!
Thanks to the Special Child Exchange Yahoo Group , that has offered an endless supply of guidance and resources, I became aware of this previously unheard of seizure-type. Oddly enough, my first thought was in regards to WHY no one had ever mentioned these to me before nor had I ever read about them!? I was almost to the point of being enraged simply because I felt left in the dark of this possibility. Then of course it occurred to me, why WOULD anyone mention these joy-filled seizures... in a world of so many negatives, they're really not so traumatic?! Then I wondered if there really was such a thing at all, or if it was simply another creation of a pediatric neurologist somewhere who wanted to make a name for himself and create another realm of worry for his patient's parent...
Indeed, however, they do exist! Gelastikos is actually the Greek word for... you guessed it, laughter! ~hence the term gelastic seizures. The laughter associated with this seizure is not at all joy-filled though, rather hollow and emotionless. Apparently, although extremely rare with an occurrence of 1 in every 1000 cases of epilepsy, it is most frequent in boys... and Brayden is, indeed, a boy. 
So, how am I supposed to continue reveling in these joyous bouts of chuckles when displayed by my little miracle man? How do I know that he is indeed relishing in a heart-felt bout of laughter, and not another cumbersome, electrically impulsed seizure in that wonder of a brain that he does have?
One great way to tell, in Brayden's case, is that it generally stems from the frontal lobe... which, amazingly enough to some, he does not have. However, he DOES likely possess his hypothalamus, which can also be the generator of gelastic seizures... good news in that area, is that it is likely always because of a tumor on the hypothalamus rather then just a mysterious, electrical dysfunction. Brayden, in this particular case fortunately, has had enough recent scans that we know there are no tumorous masses anywhere to be found in there...
Another risk factor that allows me to continue to enjoy the joy in my 'lil man, now that I've done the research, is that it often accompanies other seizure-like symptoms... twitching, muscle spasms, fidgets, "crazy eyes", and the other typical seizure signs. If your little one has seizures, you know what you're looking for...
While there are moments that a brief outburst of chuckles do accompany a seizure episode, I'm relieved to find through my inquisitive quest for research that most of Brayden's chuckles are indeed shear bouts of joy escaping his soul :) However, if you are curious in regards to the same possibility for your little one, you can do a little research of your own via the Epilepsy Action Web site like I did (note that it is a UK site, it seems that all the best info comes from the UK... wonder why that it!?). But, just like any other seizure... if severe and bothersome, which it is hard to imagine that laughter could ever be perceived as bothersome, it can be treated just as any other seizure.

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