Innovative Epilepsy Surgery Now Provided by CURE Uganda

Exciting news from CURE Uganda: The hospital is now performing an innovative surgical procedure that brings hope to children suffering from the most common neurological condition in the world—epilepsy.

The disorder, which affects millions of children globally, is exacerbated in Uganda due to poor economic conditions and lack of access to medical resources. Without intervention, severe epilepsy can be devastating—causing brain damage and even death. It prevents children from reaching milestones, attending school, and living independent lives.

When properly diagnosed and treated with medicine or surgery, children with epilepsy can go on to live normal, seizure-free lives. To see more children receive the care they need, CURE is expanding services for Uganda’s more than 10,000 children who could benefit from epilepsy surgery.

More than 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in low-to-middle-income countries where access to treatment is limited.

CURE Brings Innovative Epilepsy Surgery to Uganda

For the past two years, CURE Uganda has been working with various partners—including the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the pediatric neurology and epilepsy programs at Mulago National Referral Hospital and St. Francis Hospital Nsambya in Uganda—to raise the standard of epilepsy care in the country. Each institution has the same goal: to bring lifesaving epilepsy care to Uganda’s children in need.

Doctors at the world-renowned epilepsy program at Lurie Children’s Hospital began by training CURE’s surgical team—along with teams at the two nearby Ugandan hospitals—on how to perform and interpret an electroencephalogram test (EEG). This is a crucial step in diagnosing the cause of epilepsy, and for determining whether surgery would be helpful. And because epilepsy treatment takes a multidisciplinary approach, including neurosurgeons, neurologists, radiologists, and others, members from each hospital meet regularly via Zoom to discuss the best approach to care for each patient.

“Surgery has the potential to prevent children from suffering devastating effects of epilepsy. Outside of CURE, there are no options for kids who need to have surgery because local hospitals lack the resources,” says Dr. Emmanuel Wegoye, CURE Uganda’s Medical Director. “CURE is tapping into the expertise at Lurie Children’s Hospital and investing heavily in the needed infrastructure and equipment to serve these children.”

Dr. Sandi Lam (left) and Dr. Emmanuel Wegoye (right) perform surgery to treat a child with epilepsy.

After providing regular training and consultations via Zoom, Dr. Sandi Lam, Division Head of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Lurie, visited CURE Uganda several times to train the hospital’s neurosurgeons on surgical approaches to treat epilepsy.

During the most recent visit in October 2023, Dr. Lam provided hands-on training to CURE’s neurosurgical team on a less invasive surgery called a vertical hemispherotomy. Because this more targeted approach involves smaller incisions to surgically treat areas of the brain affected by epilepsy, recovery is faster and kids can get back to being kids sooner.

Dr. Lam notes that very few centers around the world have concentrated experience performing this procedure. Now that CURE Uganda’s neurosurgeons have been trained, the hospital is one of them. The door is open for the hospital to provide excellent care for more children with epilepsy—in addition to the 2,000 surgeries they already perform to treat conditions like hydrocephalus, spina bifida, and brain tumors.

Saving More Children Like Wilson

The teams from CURE Uganda and Lurie Children’s Hospital pose for a photo during the epilepsy surgery training week at CURE Uganda.

Expanding CURE’s capacity to treat epilepsy will impact more children like Wilson, the youngest of 10 siblings who has suffered with epilepsy most of his life. His violent and unprovoked seizures prevented him from progressing in school.

“His condition led most people to call him demonic due to their lack of awareness. Many of them shy away from socializing with him,” says Wilson’s older sister, Betty.

Thankfully, Wilson’s family learned about the one place he could find a complete cure for his seizures: CURE Uganda. There, Dr. Sandi and Dr. Emmanuel performed a successful nine-hour surgery that has enabled Wilson to live seizure-free. After recovering in the ICU and receiving prayers and encouragement from the spiritual ministry team, he’s back home and has big plans to join a technical school this year and study carpentry.

Dr. Emmanuel says the most important aspect of this new initiative is the opportunity to change the lives of many more children. “It takes considerable investment to do these surgeries—from the infrastructure to the human resource,” he says. “And it brings incredible transformation into the lives of children who suffer with epilepsy—and to their families as well.”

CURE is thankful for the generous partners around the world who make it possible for surgeons like Dr. Emmanuel to bring life-changing surgeries and compassionate care to children who urgently need it. Florence, a mom whose young son received surgery to treat epilepsy, says it best: “We are immensely grateful to God for CURE Uganda’s partners and donors, whose support has allowed us access to sponsored treatment at CURE Uganda. I will live to testify of the Lord’s goodness. Thank you for coworking with God to establish His kingdom!”

Wilson recovers after his nine-hour surgery at CURE.
Returning to CURE Uganda for his post-surgery check-up, Wilson’s smile says it all!
Photo of the CURE International Canada

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