Metro Detroit father overcomes battle with epilepsy with 'brain pacemaker'

Posted at 4:10 PM, Oct 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 16:10:42-04

We’ve all heard of pacemakers for your heart, but now one for the brain. It is giving new hope to people suffering from debilitating seizures.

If you have epilepsy, the seizures can be so bad that it’s nearly impossible to live a normal life. If medicine fails, there aren't a lot of options. 

At the Henry Ford Neurosurgery Department, a breakthrough treatment that’s made a whole new life possible for one man in Southfield.

Carlo Zoccoli dreamed of a normal life, one without someone having to always watch over him.

“I would have somewhere between 20 and 30 seizures a month,” Zoccoli said.

Zoccoli has epilepsy and has been going through debilitating complex partial seizures most of his life.

“The medication was not working. We’d be flip flopping between a whole different array of medications,“ Zoccoli said.

Desperate for a solution, Zoccoli met with Dr. Andrew Zillgitt, a neurosurgeon at Henry Ford Hospital. They discussed two possible options but finally decided on Neurospace.

Neuropace is like a pacemaker that’s implanted in the brain.  

“It records brain wave signals, we're able to detect what's called a seizure signature and once we detect that we program the device to detect that. Then the treatment targets that pattern and then stops the seizure from either happening,” Zillgitt said.

Either choice for Zoccoli is a risky operation exposing the brain.

“The one hand we have a lobectomy. one hand we have the RNS system.” Zoccoli said.

But he was more worried about another life-altering moment scheduled just three weeks after the surgery. He was preparing for his highly anticipated wedding to the love of his life.

“I was more freaked out about my wedding. I was having more anxiety about my wedding than this RNS system.”

He went with the Neuropace, a successful surgery and his life is completely different now. He is married, has a normal work life and only three seizures on average per month.

“Five months after that, we found out that we’re pregnant with a little girl," Zoccoli said. "April of this year, we had our little baby girl, Giada." 

“I can hold her and love her and get a good smile from her which brightens up your day,” he says with a grin.

With November being epilepsy awareness month, Carlo is hoping his story will give hope to the roughly 30-thousand epilepsy patients in Michigan that may be candidates for Neuropace.

For more on the procedure, click here.