For most of his adult life, David Foraker was challenged by refractory focal epilepsy, defined as a condition that is not adequately controlled by two or more well-tolerated appropriate medications.
His seizures were subtle, but they occurred often enough to impact his quality of life.
“You couldn’t get his attention if he was having a seizure,” said his wife JoAnn. “You could say something and he didn’t respond to you.”
David, 70, is a retired machine operator. He was diagnosed with epilepsy as a young man, soon after he was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1970. Coworkers noticed that his speech would become garbled during brief episodes.
“I don’t have physical seizures,” he said. “I’m a hummer.”
For years, doctors tried to control his illness with medications. But finding a solution that did not involve side effects was elusive. At times, he felt tired. He got dizzy. He had double vision.
As he grew older, he also developed atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, a condition in which the heart beats irregularly. For heart care, he partners with cardiologist Mark Troiano, D.O., of Christiana Care Cardiology Consultants.
As his medical needs grew more complex, David partnered with Huijun “June” Wang, M.D., Ph.D., of Christiana Care Neurology Specialists, to create a plan of care to control his seizures without affecting the management of his A-fib or negatively impacting his quality of life.
“Every patient is a unique individual. Every patient has a different tolerance to medications,” Dr. Wang said. “We work together to set up a plan to get to the ideal place.”
JoAnn was an important member of the team, accompanying David to appointments and conferring with him and his doctor.
“Oftentimes, the patient doesn’t know he had a seizure, so we always encourage patients to bring someone close to them to appointments,” Dr. Wang said. “She is very closely involved in his care, a true advocate for him and a great resource for me in his care.”
Part of the plan was to taper Foraker off one medication and replace it with a different medication. But cost became a barrier to care.
“The price of the medicine was so high I couldn’t afford it,” he said.
Dr. Wang collaborated with providers at the Veterans Administration. Together, they were able to get him the medication at an affordable price.
“We no longer just write prescriptions,” Dr. Wang said. “We deal with insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and other providers to get the patients what they need.”
Today, David is doing much better. He has fewer seizures, and when they do occur they are very mild.
“He is doing really great now,” JoAnn said. “We can do anything, go anywhere. We visit our grandchildren and go out to dinner.”
Having a respectful, caring team on his side has made all the difference.
“When I talk to Dr. Wang, she really understands me,” David said. “These days, I feel pretty much normal, and I’m happy to be doing well.”