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Cushioning the fall for patients with epilepsy

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Falls were frequent for Nathan Kalina — they’re the dangerous result of myoclonic astatic epilepsy.

“Within a month after it started, he was up to 20 to 30 seizures a day. After that over a hundred,” said Nathan’s mother Megan.

Nathan was put on different medications to control his seizures but finding the right combination took time. In the meantime, he kept going down.

“It became very common for him to fall forward, frequently bruised, cuts on his face, stitches on his chin,” Megan said.

Nathan’s parents knew they had to protect their son – doctors suggested a helmet.

“You can go to the orthodics place and get a very expensive helmet. What I usually recommend is they go to the sporting goods store and get a hockey helmet to start with because it saves a lot of money,” Dr. Michael Kohrman, pediatric neurologist, University of Chicago Medicine.

That’s exactly what Megan Kalina did.

“As soon as he was awake and moving he would always have a helmet on,” she said.

It did the job. but there are other options — less bulky, more comfortable — but the convenience comes at a cost. Former Chicago Bear Joey Joey LaRocque designed a different kind of helmet to help epileptics tackle their disease.

“It’s light, it’s breathable, it’s machine washable and it protects. We had it tested and it’s up to 60-percent force reduction that’s how much the helmet actually reduces the impact,” he said. “They realize there is light at the end of the tunnel, like I say ,and as we gain more funding and education and spreading the word about epilepsy hopefully people will be interested and want to help.”

These days, Nathan has hung up his hockey helmet — for good, he hopes. Two years ago, doctors implanted a nerve stimulator in his upper chest.

“We elected to implant the Vegus nerve stimulator which is like a pacemaker but instead of pacing the heart it paces the brain. and that was successful in stopping his seizures,” Dr. Kohrman said.

“The feeling of freedom once we could take it off…it’s like it opened up his personality,” Megan said.


Information about the helmets:

Gala to raise money to help all those affected by epilepsy:

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  • Donald

    Saw the story on television, thought I could see it again here but this is just the print version? That's kind of cheesy …

  • Katherine

    As a 26 year old epileptic, I don't have seizures often enough to warrant wearing a helmet all day, every day. Moreover, my worst injuries have been below the neck- my left arm now loves to pop out of it's socket. Rug burns on my knees and ankles from jerking against the floor during an episode. No helmet will stop me gritting my teeth hard enough to crack molars. During my last seizure I fell onto an empty, open dishwasher rack and my thigh was punctured by a tine.

    According to your story, all I gotta do is wear a full set of lightweight Bears-approved armor and I'll be right as rain!

    Nathan's story is wonderful and touching, et al. However, your reporter needs to become more careful: mention how rare Nathan's situation is, how "many epileptics are this way, but Nathan is this way." If you truly wish to spread awareness of epilepsy, put your money where your mouth is and choose between a "Little Boy with Illness" story or a "Washed-up Athlete Does Charity Work for Tax Reasons" story. Jamming the two together results in the article above, which I give about a C-.