Armenian Man Thanks North Shore-LIJ Doctors for Multiple, Life-Saving Surgeries
Contact: Michelle Pinto
Three months to the day after being admitted to North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) for treatment of brain seizures, a 30-year-old Armenian man had the opportunity Thursday to thank the two local surgeons who changed his life.
“I am so grateful to you all,” Gagik Hovhannisyan of Yerevan, Armenia, said via an interpreter during a press conference held at NSUH.
“For the first time in my life, I am not having seizures,” said Mr. Hovhannisyan, with his mother by his side and his father and sister joining in from Armenia via Skype. “I can go home, drive a car, and do all the things that I could never do before. This is a miracle to me.”
Mr. Hovhannisyan was seven in 1990 when he was brought to Cohen Children’s Medical Center (then Schneider’s Children’s Hospital) under the auspices of the Russian Gift of Life and the International Rotary. His mother, Jasmin Khazarian, was told her son had been born with a congenital heart condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot – a rare condition that occurs in about five out of every 10,000 babies.
Vincent Parnell, MD, surgeon-in-chief at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, performed surgery to correct that condition.
Due to his heart condition, Mr. Hovhannisyan later developed a seizure disorder as a result of an infection that developed in his brain. When he was 16, Russian Gift of Life stepped in again and had him brought back to the children’s hospital. His cardiac situation was stable, but the anti-seizure medications were not doing the job. Doctors decided he would eventually need brain surgery to remove the lesions causing the seizures.
Through it all, Mr. Hovhannisyan refused to give in to his disorder. He taught himself how to play the piano, learned English, mastered computers and graduated from Yeravan State University. As his proud mother said during the press conference, “My son never believed he was sick.”
On May 8, Mr. Hovhannisyan returned to the U.S. and was admitted to NSUH. Three weeks later he underwent a 10-hour diagnostic epilepsy surgery with Ashesh Mehta, MD, North Shore-LIJ Health System’s director of epilepsy surgery, to pinpoint where the seizures began and what areas were affected.
“During the first surgery, 210 electrodes were implanted by opening Gagik’s skull to determine the exact location of the seizures,” Dr. Mehta said. “After monitoring his brain activity for several days, we performed a second surgery that lasted seven hours. In this procedure, the seizure-producing areas of the brain were removed. Through all of this, great care had to be taken to avoid harm to the brain areas that control movement, vision, memory, language and feeling.”
Mr. Hovhannisyan was discharged on June 14. To date, he is seizure-free with no impairment to his speech, language or memory skills.
“As a mother, I gave birth to my son, but the doctors at the North Shore-LIJ Health System gave him a life,” said Ms. Khazarian, who surprised Dr. Parnell during the press conference when she presented him with a hand drawing he had done 23 years ago to explain Mr. Hovhannisyan’s heart condition.
To learn more about Mr. Hovhannisyan’s extraordinary experience, please watch the video.