Neurosciences Patient Story: Kerry Rathburn

As a 14-year-old boy, Kerry Rathburn suffered from extremely painful headaches.

“During high school I saw three different doctors and all three said I had advanced adult migraines and that I would outgrow them,” Kerry said.

“The episodes were almost cyclical and I could kind of anticipate when one was coming, so I was able to work around them. I went through college and grad school with this going on. Sometimes I would be taking a test, and all of a sudden I couldn’t read a question. I’d just wait for it to pass and then go back to my exam.”

“I was working on getting my MBA when I had my first I grand mal epileptic seizure. Basically, I had been living with a misdiagnosis for ten years.”

After his initial epilepsy diagnosis, Kerry began treatment with medication. He continued to work around his condition as he managed his family’s 60-year-old business, Star Electric Inc. in Green Bay. Then one day he had a new kind seizure while he was at his doctor’s office.

“I don’t even remember it happening. I just blacked out right in his office,” Kerry said. “It was the first time anything like that had happened to me.”

Kerry’s doctor recommended he meet with the specialists at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. The program offers a collaborative team of Medical College of Wisconsin physicians who focus exclusively on epilepsy and are some of the most experienced specialists in the state. It offers a complete evaluation of patients with refractory (drug resistant) epilepsy and other difficult-to-treat cases. The program, as part of the only academic medical center in eastern Wisconsin, offers access to the latest clinical trials.

“Based on my doctor’s strong recommendation, I decided it was worth the trip from Green Bay to Milwaukee to see what they thought,” Kerry said.

“My life was getting busier. I was a husband and a father by this time and my condition wasn’t getting any better, it was getting worse. The medication wasn’t solving the problem. At best, it was neutralizing it somewhat. Plus, there was concern that the episodes could lead to negative effects on my health down the road,” he said.

“In spite of all that, my preference was still to try to treat it with medication. But after I visited Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin I changed my thinking. I had been through lots and lots of tests in my life, but this team took it to a whole new level and depth. They were very thorough and I left with a great impression,” Kerry said.

“After that kind of examination with a whole team of people focused on my case, well, when the doctor recommended surgery on a cavernous angioma located in the temporal region my brain, I had no hesitation. I was completely comfortable with everything he was recommending.”

Seizure-free since surgery, Kerry also no longer needs medication. “It’s hard to explain how my life has changed since surgery,” Kerry said. “Yes. It’s great to be able to drive again, but it’s more than that. I live in a new comfort zone. I don’t have to think or plan ahead as far as what I might need to do if I suddenly find myself at a loss for words or on the verge of a seizure. I’m enjoying a much bigger kind of independence. And I’m not bashful about recommending other people in a similar position check out this surgery. It has made an incredible difference in my life.”


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