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Man suffering from nonstop seizures gets new start from operation

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PHOENIX -

He was only 5 years old when his mom noticed his first seizure. Since then he's has tens of thousands of them.

Turns out Chris Murto had a mass in his brain. You can see it right here on the MRI. Not cancerous, but it caused 25 years of non-stop seizures.

He decided to undergo a rather new brain surgery -- a surgery that uses no scalpels, only lasers. Could it possibly work?

It's no way to grow up. Seizures every day -- sometime up to 20 of them. Chris Murto's been dealing with this entire life.

"When he was five he had his first seizure," says mom Maura Murto.

His mom started keeping a record of Chris's seizures. 24 years later, now a grown man, things had gotten so bad Chris was having about 300 seizures a week.

They weren't grand mal seizures that knock him to the ground, but smaller seizures that exhaust the brain. Chris even had one during our interview.

"I'm having one right now, little seizure… you may notice it in my eyes a little," says Chris Murto.

His mom remembers the first time she noticed the seizures. It was 24 years ago, but the memory is vivid.

"He was talking to me in my lap and he stopped talking and when I looked at his face, there was a little tear dripping down his face and you could feel his heart racing," says Maura Murto.

Her adorable little boy diagnosed with hypothalamic hamartoma.

"For years people didn't know what they were and ignored them."

"It's not exactly a real tumor, the abnormal tissue will be there. Those cells we know partly through research tick along and trigger off the seizures," says Dr. Peter Nakaji, Barrow Neurological Institute.

Chris got on medication but eventually it stopped working and it got worse.

"My IQ dropped while on the medication. Was 120 to around 70."

"His inability to focus, remember things, do what other kids could do. He was behind in class, behind in development."

"We put him in the hospital because he would not stop seizing. He had a seizure every three minutes. And they became painful, he would grab his chest and roll on the floor and say it hurts, it hurts," says Maura. "And he even asked why doesn't God just let me die? At thirteen."

Chris was desperate and his mom heartbroken.

"Wishing I could fix it for him. Just wishing he had a normal life and now we're hoping he's going to get one."

Finally, now that he's 29, Chris has a shot at a normal life.

"There's a very very high chance I'd say 80 to 90 percent that you'll just stop having seizures," says Dr. Nakaji.

We met up with him at Barrow Neurological Institute for a life changing operation.

"My hopes are that things can be much better than they are right now. That maybe in a slight chance, if we're blessed, we might actually have me seizure free."

This brain surgery will require only one stitch performed by Dr. Peter Nakaji and his team.

"They drill a hole the size of a coffee stirrer into the skull and they put the laser inside right into the tumor then they use a computer and cook it," says Maura.

Basically that's it. A laser inserted deep into Chris's brain. The surgery requires hours of set up to make sure the laser aim is perfect, and only seconds to destroy the hamartoma.

No scalpels involved in this operation, but still it is not an easy surgery. One wrong move -- a millimeter off in any direction will be catastrophic.

"So when I say it has to be precise, it has to be precise. We can't injure this, we can't injure any of this."

With hours of prep work to make sure the aim for the laser is perfect… time to press cook.

11 days later we check back in with Chris and his family. Did this surgery work?

"It was amazing it went as text book perfect, as it could. He had 5 seizures before the surgery that morning. Has had none since so I was just oh so happy.

The charts Maura and Chris have kept for 24 years documenting his seizures are now marked with zeros. For the first time, not a single seizure.

"We're just so thankful."

One month later, still no seizures. Chris is getting off his meds. He hopes other people living with the HH tumors will see his story and see that there is hope.

Online:

www.hopeforhh.org 

www.thebarrow.org 

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