An active 14-year-old, Raygen Youngblood has overcome numerous physical obstacles. She was born premature, weighing 1 pound, 10 ounces, and spent many weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit, where she experienced two Grade 4 strokes.
Raygen’s mom, Harriet Youngblood, explained,“There was so much blood leaking in her brainthat it couldn’t be absorbed. It caused a large clot and tumor to form. When she had the second stroke, we were told she would be blind, deaf, and on a feeding tube. But God had adifferent plan.”
While struggling with generalized tonic-clonicseizures, also called grand mal seizures, Raygen has been able to excel academically and is amember of the Southside Christian School crosscountry team and drama club.
“She has been through so much,” Harriet said.“ Raygen has cerebral palsy and hemiplegia. Herright side is partially immobile because of the strokes.”
Examined by numerous neurologists, Harriet said the consensus is the tumor is inoperable, leaving Raygen dependent on daily medication and little hope for a seizure-free life.
Raygen’s despair finally gave way to hope when her neurologist Dr. Hernan Posas recommended avagus nerve stimulator (VNS), a medical device designed to prevent seizures before they start and stop them if they occur.
Posas referred Raygen to Dr. Kimberly Mackey, a neurosurgeon at South Georgia Medical Center.While the VNS procedure is not new, Mackey is the only board-certified pediatric neurosurgeonin South Georgia who performs VNS therapy.
Mackey, who has been performing VNS therapy for the past 11 years, explained that the device sends mild pulses through the vagus nerve to areas of the brain associated with seizures. People with a VNSoften experience fewer seizures, and if seizuresoccur, they are usually shorter and less severe withbetter recovery.
The VNS is used in conjunction with medication orother treatments for people 4-years-old and older with drug-resistant epilepsy and focal (partial-onset) seizures.
Raygen also wears a magnet around her wrist. When she feels a seizure coming on, she can waive the magnet over her VNS.
“Having Dr. Mackey come to SGMC has been ablessing for our family,” Harriet said. “When we first went to meet her, she spoke directly to Raygen.
She wanted to make sure Raygen wanted to go through with the surgery. It was up to her.”
For Raygen, the VNS represents a better quality of life. “Before, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to live on my own or even get a driver’s license,” saidRaygen, who one day wants to be a forensic scientist.
For more information on South Georgia MedicalCenter’s neurosurgery program, visit sgmc.org.