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“Split My Brain” by Julia Omarzu Page 1

“Split My Brain” by Julia Omarzu Page 1

“Split My Brain” by Julia Omarzu Page 1

Part I—Jerrod and Jump Jerrod Hamilton is seven years old. He is an only child and much loved by his parents, Karen and Jeff , and by his extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Jerrod has always been a very active boy. He loves hockey, baseball, swimming at the local pool, climbing trees, and playing with his golden retriever, Jump. Making friends has never been a problem for Jerrod. He has several good friends he plays ball with whenever he can. He also does fairly well in school, although he is not as interested in the classroom as he is in recess.

Shortly before Jerrod’s seventh birthday, he had a small seizure. He was out playing with his dad and Jump in the yard, when suddenly he stopped, his right arm twitched a little and he seemed disoriented for a few seconds. Afterward he said he was fi ne, but his mother Karen thought he was quieter than usual. Both his parents watched him more closely in the following days. Soon he had another couple of episodes of muscle twitching and weakness. During these seizures, Jerrod also stared blankly, moving his head slightly back and forth, and for a minute or two could not respond to his parents. When the seizures ended, Jerrod had no memory of them.

Jerrod’s parents took him to their pediatrician, Dr. Madeline Sierra, who listened as Jerrod’s parents described his symptoms.

“Before I try to conclude anything, I’d like to order several tests for Jerrod, including an EEG and an MRI scan. I know that sounds a little scary, but the tests are painless and noninvasive. We should get the results back very quickly. Once I see those, I’ll know more about what’s going on.”

“A friend of mine said it sounds like Jerrod might have epilepsy,” said Karen. “Is that what you think? How serious would that be?”

“Epilepsy is one possibility,” replied the doctor. “It is a relatively common problem and there are some very good treatments for it.”

Dr. Sierra went on to explain: “Th e brain uses electrical energy. Th e cells of the brain, called neurons, emit a small electrical charge when they send messages to other cells. Th is is how the brain communicates and runs your mind and body.” Dr. Sierra interrupted her explanation for a moment to show them a diagram of a neuron.

Split My Brain: A Case Study of Seizure Disorder and Brain Function by Julia Omarzu Department of Psychology Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa



“Split My Brain” by Julia Omarzu Page 2

“In epilepsy, the neurons somehow get out of control,” Dr. Sierra continued. “Th e electri- cal activity increases to a level that the brain can not manage. Th at produces what we call seizures, where people lose control of their voluntary behaviors for a brief time. Sometimes seizures are nothing more than short lapses of consciousness. Other times they involve con- vulsions or involuntary movements.”

Jeff and Karen looked at each other. “Th at sounds sort of like what’s happening to Jerrod,” Jeff said.

“Yes, it does. But let’s not jump to any conclu- sions. I’d rather wait for the tests.” Dr. Sierra paused. “I would also recommend something else,” she said. “Th is is something that many families fi nd helpful. Starting today, I suggest that you keep a journal or record of Jerrod’s illness. Include his symptoms, tests, informa- tion from doctors, any treatments or therapies. Document everything. I will help you, but ultimately, you and Jerrod are the ones who will have to make the decisions, and there will be lots to think about along the way. I think you will be grateful later to have a record of what you learn and observe.”

Th at evening Karen and Jeff called a family meeting to share the results of the doctor’s visit.

You will help Jerrod’s family by keeping the record Dr. Sierra suggested. Begin creating Jerrod’s records by including the following information in a way that Jerrod’s family can use and understand. You are encour- aged to do further research, but you must synthesize the information you get from the research into a new form that suits Jerrod’s situation. Do not just cut and paste from the Internet.

Jerrod’s Records • Why is there electrical activity in the brain? Describe how it is used by neurons. • What happens in the brain during a seizure? • What is epilepsy? How is it diagnosed? • What are the procedures for doing an EEG test and MRI scan? What type of information does each of

these tests provide? (See and

• What are some possible causes of seizures other than epilepsy? • Based on the information in the case, what type of seizures does Jerrod appear to be having? • What should you do during a seizure to help Jerrod? • What are some treatments for epilepsy?



“Split My Brain” by Julia Omarzu Page 3

Part II—A Diffi cult Decision Jerrod’s tests were done right away, and his parents met again with Dr. Sierra. Jerrod’s symptoms were esc

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