After hitting the back of her head in a snowboarding accident 10 years ago, Niccole Hodgson's life changed forever. Now she's hoping brain surgery will help her get it back.
”I have pretty severe epilepsy, as far as epilepsy goes,” the 30-year-old Arcata resident said, carefully articulating her words. “I have every type of seizure that there is.”
Hodgson has suffered from seizures since childhood, but in the years since the accident, the level and frequency has escalated to the degree that she can no longer read, care for her 12-year-old daughter or be alone.
To pass the time, Hodgson visits with friends who keep her company, and her service dog who is always at her side.
”I'm there to help any way I can without having a nursing degree,” said her friend Stuart Shimkus, who survived a brain tumor. “She has good humor for her condition.”
For Hodgson, the entire experience is frustrating.
”I used to do a lot of things,” she said. “I don't have hobbies anymore.”
The passionate clarinet player, who was accepted to The Julliard School, was recently diagnosed with status epilepticus.
”It's horrible, it's life-threatening,” said her caregiver Ken Boss. “It's the absolute worst thing you could ever watch. It's terrifying.”
Before being prescribed her most recent medication, Hodgson had a grand mal seizure every two hours. Doctors at the UC San Francisco Epilepsy Center said Hodgson's case is one of the worst they've ever seen, according to Boss.
The seizures have left Hodgson -- who has lost 40 pounds in the last four or five months -- with brain damage and no appetite.
”She has a tough time remembering words, and it's hard for her to make decisions,” Boss said. “I have to do all of the decision making for us. She's kind of lost and scared, like a little kid.”
Hodgson said she hopes having brain surgery next month will help.
”I'm getting nowhere with the medications,” she said. “I might as well try the surgery.”
Doctors will cut open part of her scull plate, and go through her right temporal lobe to remove part of her left temporal lobe in an attempt to address Hodgson's severe anxiety.
”For a number of patients, surgery is the best option,” said Dr. Manu Hegde, Hodgson's physician at UCSF. “We have a very good chance of making seizures significantly better, and sometimes curing the seizures entirely, if we get good results from all of the testing, meaning we've pinned down where it's coming from and know it's a safe place to operate.”
According to surgeons, there is a 95 percent chance Hodgson will never have a grand mal seizure again, Boss said.
On Saturday, a music benefit will be held for Hodgson.
The concert -- which will include nine bands performing everything from country to blue grass -- will be recorded and played during the operation to keep Hodgson calm. She has to remain awake the entire time.
Boss said he thought of the idea after he heard about a man who recently walked through the UCSF Epilepsy Center playing guitar to cheer up the patients, including Hodgson.
”Any time you love somebody and they're hurting and sick, you want to be able to do something,” Boss said. “I'm not a brain surgeon, but I can do this.”
If you go:
What: “Music for healing” benefit concert
When: 12 p.m. to 2 a.m., March 8
Where: Blue Lake Casino, 777 Casino Way, Blue Lake
Cost: Donation only
Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.