Hemispherotomy ends child’s epileptic seizures


On a typical day, 5-year-old Savon would endure six to nine seizures — some days, even more.

“Some days, the seizures came so fast that we lost count. It was an incredibly distressing and overwhelming time,” said Francis Kageche, Savon’s father.

Savon suffered a traumatic brain injury involving his right hemisphere in 2019 when he was 2 years old, which resulted in medically refractory epilepsy and left hemiparesis.

At the time of his injury, Savon underwent multiple brain surgeries. These included bilateral craniotomies to evacuate the bilateral subdural hematomas and the placement of an external ventricular drain.

But last March, Savon received the surgery that changed everything for him.

UC Davis Health’s Chief of Pediatric Epilepsy Julia Sharma, assisted by pediatric neurosurgeon Marike Zwienenberg and functional neurosurgeon David Brandman, performed a right functional hemispherotomy. During the complex surgery, the majority of the right hemisphere of the brain was disconnected from the rest of the brain. The surgery took six hours and was successful.

side by side MRI images – which shows the damaged hemisphere pre-op and the brain after surgery
Pre- and post-operative MRI images of Savon’s brain after hemispherotomy

“The care Savon received at UC Davis was nothing short of exceptional,” Kageche said. “The dedicated team of doctors, nurses and professionals worked together seamlessly to transform Savon's life.”.

Since Savon’s surgery, his speech, memory and intelligence have all shown remarkable improvement, Kageche said. But best of all, his seizures have stopped.

“It's a dramatic, positive change in our lives, and we are filled with hope for his future,” Kageche said. “We highly recommend UC Davis to any families facing similar challenges with their loved ones. The level of expertise, professionalism and collaboration among the medical staff is truly outstanding. UC Davis has played a pivotal role in turning our family's life around.”

Sharma said that it is incredibly rewarding for her to see a child like Savon become seizure-free after surgery. 

“It is life-changing not just for the patient, but for the entire family. These experiences are what drive me. My patients motivate and inspire me to provide the highest level of neurosurgical care possible in the fight against epilepsy,” Sharma said.

The UC Davis pediatric epilepsy program has expanded this year to accommodate more patient referrals. The team recently opened a new, 11-bed epilepsy monitoring unit at the hospital.  

“Our goal is to give more patients like Savon the opportunity for a life free from seizures,” Sharma said.