Charlotte neurosurgeon removes rare brain tumor, saves toddler from ‘giggling epilepsy’

Updated: Jul. 14, 2020 at 9:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A pediatric neurosurgeon at Novant Health, performed a landmark surgery to remove a rare brain tumor from a 2-year-old.

Ellis Frey was diagnosed with ‘giggling epilepsy’– a rare form of epilepsy that causes uncontrollable laughter.

The only cure is surgery, and health experts say only a handful of a few medical centers across the country are equipped to treat this.

Seizure medication proved ineffective, as Ellis was having multiple seizures, daily, since 9 months old.

Left untreated, this tumor can cause cognitive impairment, developmental delays, psychiatric symptoms and more.

After a few days of scans and being monitored at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, surgeons told the Frey’s that they did not feel comfortable operating.

The tumor was resting on Ellis’ optic nerve and any error could cause massive damage to his vision, memory, development, etc. The risk was too great.

His parents, Nicole and Kyle, made plans to travel to Houston Children’s Hospital, but then COVID-19 hit.

They were referred to Dr. Erin Kiehna who told them they didn’t need to go anywhere. She would do the procedure right in Charlotte, and she didn’t need to preform open brain surgery.

Dr. Kiehna, an expert in the field of pediatric neurosurgery, knew about a new, minimally invasive procedure that would allow her to operate and remove Ellis’ brain tumor through a small incision. And that’s exactly what she did.

Since that day, Ellis has not had any seizures. Before the surgery, he was suffering multiple seizures a day.

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