In Australia alone approximately 250,000 people live with epilepsy and one in 25 people will have epilepsy at some point in their life.
Ask Leah Bohm what it’s like to have a family member with epilepsy but luckily for her medical technology has provided a life changing opportunity. Last year Leah spoke to a room full of politicians to tell her story. The power and authenticity of her story left everyone with no doubt, medical technology can change lives for the better.
Global advances in medical technology over the past 20 years have resulted in a 56% reduction in hospital stays, 25% decline in disability rates and increased life expectancy of approximately 3.2 years.
Technology allows patients to hear, to walk, to see, to live or to have a quality of life that they otherwise would not have. The gradual innovation over the years has seen some critical devices develop from technologies that were lifesaving but their design and functional restrictions limited patients’ quality of life to technologies that now save lives and provide a high quality of life for patients.
For Leah, her eight year old son has been living with an aggressive form of epilepsy since just before his 1st birthday. Over the years, his neurologist prescribed him drug after drug after drug, full of side effects, desperately trying to offer some relief. His condition was so bad, that Leah felt she barely knew her son. When he wasn’t seizing throughout the day, sometimes over 300 seizures in a day, he was recovering from the aftereffects. Her son has spent at least two Christmases, an Easter and a Mother’s Day, plus a myriad of other days in hospital from the effects of his epilepsy. Most often injuries sustained from atonic episodes, where the patient suddenly loses consciousness and can fall to the ground if standing.
Eventually the neurologist suggested he be provided with a vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy.
For Leah, a miracle occurred on April 24th, 2014, six months after her son’s implant was activated, he had his first seizure free day. Since then he’s been seizure fee, this has allowed her to finally meet her son, hidden for so many years by his condition. But more importantly it has given her son a future, one she never thought he would have.
Each story I hear is so uniquely powerful, and serves as a reminder of the importance of continued innovation to society and patients everywhere.
Australia has an excellent health system that makes possible some of the most up-to-date medical procedures for people like Leah’s son. We are a fortunate country that provides universal health care to all that enables wonderful patient outcomes.
I look forward during March on behalf of the medical technology industry to help raise awareness of epilepsy and Go Purple. At the end of the day everything the medical device industry does and seeks to do has patients as the core focus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ian Burgess is the CEO of the Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA).