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Brain surgery changes Brownsville woman’s life

Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 · Volume: XLVI · Issue: 13

Charles Szabo, M.D., of UT Medicine San Antonio, diagnosed Cheryl Valdez’s, condition and recommended surgery to explore the cause of the seizures. Click on image to make it bigger
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Charles Szabo, M.D., of UT Medicine San Antonio, diagnosed Cheryl Valdez’s, condition and recommended surgery to explore the cause of the seizures. Click on image to make it biggerclear graphic

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Contact: Catherine Duncan, 210-567-2570

SAN ANTONIO (June 24, 2013) — Cheryl Valdez, a 43-year-old Brownsville resident, had her first seizure at age 17. She saw different doctors — some who believed she had epilepsy and some who did not. She tried all kinds of medications, but none helped.

Valdez had several car accidents related to having seizures while driving. Her seizures continued despite several trials of different seizure medications, some causing her to gain weight while others worsened her depression and anxiety. She became disabled and dependent on family members and friends. She prayed for a miracle.

UT Medicine physician diagnoses cause of seizures
Valdez decided to see a UT Medicine San Antonio epilepsy expert who comes to Harlingen every three months to see patients as part of a South Texas Epilepsy Clinic, overseen by the Epilepsy Foundation Central & South Texas.

After observing her seizures during a hospitalization at University Hospital in San Antonio, and seeing the signs of brain injury (due to years of seizures) on an MRI, Charles Szabo, M.D., told Valdez she was suffering from a partial epilepsy originating from the temporal lobe.

Dr. Szabo, professor and chief of epilepsy at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and co-director of the South Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, had additional tests performed to better define the brain region where the seizures originated and the risks of removing that area.

Surgical solution
Alexander Papanastassiou, M.D., a neurosurgeon, UT Medicine physician and assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Health Science Center, performed two procedures on Valdez. The first was a six-hour implantation of electrodes in her brain.

For the next eight days, Valdez stayed in an epilepsy monitoring unit. At the end of this monitoring session, Dr. Papanastassiou performed another six-hour procedure. He removed the electrodes and then removed parts of her brain in the left temporal lobe, including a scarred hippocampus.

Seizure free
Since having the surgery on Nov. 3, 2011, Valdez has not had a single seizure and is not taking any medicine. She is now independent and calls the doctors her angels.


UT Medicine San Antonio is the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. With more than 700 doctors — all School of Medicine faculty members — UT Medicine is the largest medical practice in Central and South Texas. Expertise is in more than 100 medical specialties and subspecialties. Primary care doctors and specialists see patients in private practice at UT Medicine’s flagship clinical home, the Medical Arts & Research Center (MARC), located at 8300 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio 78229. Most major health plans are accepted, and UT Medicine physicians also practice at several local and regional hospitals. Call 210-450-9000 to schedule an appointment, or visit http://www.utmedicine.org for a list of clinics and phone numbers.

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