Eight-year-old Olivia Mullaney was just like her friends: young, healthy, full of life, a lover of sports, and a very active child.
She was a quintessential kid until one day during the summer of 2019 when out of what appeared to be nowhere, Olivia suffered her first seizure. Once the first seizure happened, Olivia spiraled into a never-ending cycle of seizures, with many occurring every single day. Despite the frequency, it would take several months before doctors diagnosed her with focal cortical dysplasia, a form of epilepsy.
"It was very difficult to experience especially when the seizures would just come out of nowhere,” Olivia recalls. “I would kind of shake and my left arm would go up, and then it would go numb.”
Olivia progressed through her grueling treatment process, the strong medications she was on yielded no benefits and the seizures continued to come on stronger and more frequently.
"During life in the womb that very small area of the brain, we're talking about millimeters, didn't form as the rest of the brain,” he describes her type of epilepsy.
Soon, surgery was her only option left.
Olivia was scheduled for brain surgery on March 5, 2020—right as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking off.
Olivia continues to thrive and is back to her healthy, happy self.
Her mother, Beth, recalls Olivia’s bravery given the scary and uncertain circumstances coupled with a global outbreak of the contagious virus on the horizon.
"She was so brave. My husband and I weren't even able to go with her to begin the anesthesia,” says Mullaney. "So that was very hard for us."
But Olivia was in the best hands possible. Dr. Bartolini is one of only a handful of pediatric epilepsy specialists with expertise in the complex evaluation leading to surgery and in reading invasive EEGs. Dr. Konstantina Svokos and Dr. Wael Asaad are the only neurosurgeons in the region performing this highly specialized surgery at Hasbro Children’s.
Despite the risks that any surgery carries with it, Olivia and her parents knew that the best chance of curing her epilepsy was to go ahead with Dr. Bartolini’s surgical plan.
When the day of surgery finally arrived Dr. Bartolini and the neurosurgery team first set out to map the brain using special brain wave monitoring to determine exactly where within the organ the seizures were happening.
"Olivia's surgery consisted first of identifying all of the areas that were likely causing the seizures," explains Dr. Bartolini.
By using this advanced technology (electrocorticography, a type of invasive EEG to monitor brain waves), Dr. Bartolini and his team were able to determine exactly where the seizures were originating from and the lesion was removed.
"Months later, Olivia is still seizure-free,” says Dr. Bartolini. "I'm very optimistic that in Olivia's case, her seizures will not return.”
Despite the circumstances of COVID-19, Olivia’s team were able to forge forward and deliver the best possible outcome. Today, Olivia continues to thrive and is back to her healthy, happy self. She is even is looking forward to once again enjoying her favorite activities including playing soccer and swimming.