“At the top of my list is the joy of being with my family and spending quality time with my daughter”
For 15 years, Gavin Deo, from Jamaica, Queens has battled the worst form of epilepsy. His drug-resistant seizures would strike without warning and happen multiple times per week, causing convulsions and loss of consciousness to the point where he feared leaving home. During this time, he needed to be closely monitored by family and friends, and guided through everyday tasks.
“My entire life was hijacked by seizures,” Gavin shares. “I could no longer drive or work. The frequency of my seizures took a heavy toll on my family, especially my relationship with my 10-year-old daughter.”
Epilepsy is a common brain disorder, affecting people of any age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Epilepsy may occur because of a genetic disorder or due to an acquired brain injury, such as a trauma or stroke. The most recognizable symptoms of epilepsy are seizures, characterized by periods of unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness.
In 2009, Gavin met Dr. Reza Zarnegar, an epilepsy neurologist with NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, while admitted to the Emergency Department for a particularly violent seizure. Ten years later, after another seizure, the two would meet again in the exact same place. This second encounter would change Gavin’s life.
After that serendipitous meeting, Dr. Zarnegar became Gavin’s primary neurologist, and recommended an innovative and intricate two-part brain surgery. In July 2021,
Gavin had this surgery performed by renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Theodore Schwartz, at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. First, Dr. Schwartz implanted electrodes directly in Gavin’s brain to record and pinpoint the seizure’s location. A few days after this monitoring, Dr. Schwartz then removed that particular small portion of the brain causing the seizures.
Gavin has been seizure-free since his surgery. After countless medications and a decade-long hunt for a cure, Gavin is now embracing a life without seizures. In 2022, he is especially grateful to be able to gather with his family and be fully present, without being terrified of a seizure.
“From our first meeting I knew if Gavin could just overcome his seizures, he would excel in his career and other aspects of his life,” says Dr. Zarnegar. “Epilepsy is a painful secret for so many, as patients fear the stigma and discrimination. However, with cutting-edge advances in epilepsy treatment, and appropriate medical care and healthy lifestyle habits, most people with epilepsy can go on to live a normal and full life.”
For Gavin, that is the plan.
“I can get back to work, and hopefully start driving again,” he shares. “At the top of my list is the joy of being with my family and spending quality time with my daughter.”
While Dr. Zarnegar will continue to monitor him to determine the longer-term results of the surgery, Gavin is thankful to have a piece of his freedom back. He is happy and healthy, and feels stronger and more capable than ever.