Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “…the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself.” And after three brain surgeries at Sutter Medical Center, no one knew that better than Patti Palamidessi. In her third surgery, the doctors removed 70% of her hippocampus and 40% of her amygdala – the areas in the brain that help interpret perceived threats and where your fear response starts.
You have that strength inside of you…everyone does.
But why did Patti need three brain surgeries to begin with? She had epilepsy all her life but didn’t know it until age 16 when she had a grand mal seizure. She diligently took her meds and received great care. Patti began adjusting and was grateful to continue living life normally until her 30s, when the seizures started getting longer and stronger. She was 38 when Dr. Craig Watson, Dr. Collie Cobb, and the late Dr. Robert Bergermen performed Patti’s first surgery at Sutter Medical Center to insert electrodes into her brain. Those electrodes recorded that Patti had suffered 165 seizures in 10 days.
The road ahead was going to be a long one. Patti had to relearn a lot of things – numbers, the alphabet, names of things and people she once knew — all while dealing with a lot of fear, mainly due to the removal of portions of her brain. Luckily Patti had the support of her “angels” as she calls them – the doctors, nurses and hospital staff at Sutter who were always kind, gave her confidence and helped her get through one of the toughest battles of her life. Her main doctor—Dr. Watson—actually spearheaded an epilepsy program, dedicated to caring for children and adults with epilepsy and helping those with epilepsy-like spells determine causes and solutions.
As if this battle wasn’t enough, Patti is now also recovering from kidney cancer this, where she had her left kidney recently removed. Through it all, however, she never gave up hope or lost her will to come out healthier and stronger. “You have that strength inside of you…everyone does,” said Patti.
It was through these experiences that Patti decided to give back to Sutter Health with a donation.“Sutter has turned my life around,” said Patti. “That’s why I want to give back and help them give to others,” she said. “I just feel that epilepsy is something that isn’t understood very well and affects more people than we all realize.”
She’s right. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, there are more than twice as many people with epilepsy in the U.S. as the number of people with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis combined.
Despite recent therapeutic advances, over 50% of adults with epilepsy experience refractory seizures. Sutter Health has Level 4 epilepsy care guided by leading-edge research including novel neuroimaging techniques to “map” brain activity during seizures, and clinical trials of promising new drugs and/or treatment approaches such as deep brain stimulation/responsive brain neurostimulation for the treatment of uncontrolled seizures.
Patti Palamidessi lives in Sacramento where she is a third-generation co-owner of Club Pheasant with her two brothers. She is also very active in the community, building awareness around many health issues, especially epilepsy, and she has written a book called The Other Four-Letter Word: Patti’s Story – an inspiring true story of her incredible journey