Battling Bruin: Gio

Posted April 2015

The brain is an amazing and powerful organ. For most of us, it operates effortlessly in a predictable fashion, allowing a person to live life to the fullest. However, when faced with a challenge such as epilepsy, that brain is a ship sailing through uncharted waters, never knowing when a storm may strike. Just short of his fourth birthday, Gio Silveira was diagnosed with frontal lobe epilepsy. A mischievous and sprightly toddler, Gio was accustomed to overpowering his older siblings with an unstoppable will, that more often than not, allowed him to get his way. It was that same will that would serve as a key ingredient, necessary to overcome a challenge of thirty focal seizures a day.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Gio’s new diagnosis caused his parents to fear the worst. What did this mean? In a city of flashing lights, would his life be filled with triggers that would stifle his ability to live a normal life? After a plethora of medications and guidance by a local neurologist, Gio eventually found his way to Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. However, the road to UCLA was an arduous one. He would have to endure an episode of forty seizures in a two hour period to begin his journey to California.

“When will I go home?” Gio asked his exhausted mother. “I want to see my brothers. I don’t want to be here.” Accompanied by his mother and a flight team, Gio raced to UCLA in hopes of answers. His father sobbed as he drove across state lines to join them, fearing that his son would be locked in a state of constant seizures without being by his side. As a parent, it is incredibly difficult to look in to your child’s eyes when they are suffering. Despite the incredible advances in neurology, the brain is a sea of unexplored territory that can easily be identified as an invincible foe when faced with such an obstacle. Yet, the will of a child is incredibly strong. The compassion and care of a community is sometimes greatly overshadowed by fear and dread that accompanies such a diagnosis. This would prove to be no surprise for the UCLA staff, who was ready for the challenge. It was this formula, a perfect blend of compassion, care and clinical wisdom that would allow a family to be at peace.

Upon arrival, the quality of care and knowledge was unparalleled. UCLA’s staff worked tirelessly to control Gio’s symptoms. Every single physician, nurse and care provider tending to Gio, treated him as a child that would overcome this challenging obstacle. Whether it was hunting down his favorite pudding flavor, playing with him in hopes of lifting his spirits or fighting with insurance companies to get the medication he desperately needed, the team was prepared to fight and serve him as a child desperately attempting to regain his life.

Many times, when unforeseen health difficulties arise, people reach out for a miracle. They hope that one day all of the symptoms will simply vanish. There are rare occasions when such a thing may happen. Yet many of us fail to realize that an individual can be someone else’s miracle; a moment when a group of individuals lift the fog that hovers over a disability, disease or disorder. Acts of kindness and compassion give birth to a form of transformational suffering. That bond became quite evident when witnessing diverse patients, parents and care providers reaching out to each other during such a turbulent time. Soon the fog would be lifted.

During his stay at UCLA, Gio endured a wide range of diagnostic tests in hopes of addressing his troubling symptoms. PET scans, lumbar punctures, high res MRIs, blood draws, urine analysis, EEGs with video monitoring and more. After intense scrutiny and analysis, Gio was diagnosed with cortical dysplasia, a congenital abnormality. One of the most common causes of epilepsy, cortical dysplasia, can be located anywhere throughout the brain. Fortunately, Gio’s abnormality resided in a position that would not affect his motor skills or cognitive functions. With the advice of the neurological team, Gio was placed on two medications that have since controlled his seizures. As of now, his seizures have been controlled.

Battling epilepsy is a team effort. The disorder has a ripple effect that spreads through friends, families, care providers, teachers and more. Gio’s journey has forever changed his life as well as his family and friends. As his parents, we know that the battle is far from over and that we all have a long road ahead of us. However, we also believe that our new found opposition has given our lives new meaning. The staff of UCLA has outstretched its arms with the utmost compassion, education and care. We are honored to have them in our lives and welcome the opportunity to tell Gio’s story. When you refresh others, you will be refreshed. We hope that our words give birth to hope and strength to those of you who share our challenges.

The UCLA Spirit Squad is honored to share Gio’s story and hope that his strength, and that of his family’s, gives encouragement to others facing challenges. We are so very proud to present this month’s Battling Bruin, Gio Silveira.

About Battling Bruins » | All Battling Bruins »