Brownsville woman’s life changed by brain surgery

Contact: Will Sansom, (210) 567-2579

Sindi Rosales, (210) 653-5353

WHAT: Cheryl Valdez, a 43-year-old Brownsville resident, had her first seizure at age 17. She saw different doctors – some who believed she had epilepsy and some who did not – and tried all kinds of medications but none helped. She had several car accidents related to having seizures while driving. Her seizures continued despite several trials of different seizure medications, some causing her to gain weight while others worsened her depression and anxiety. She became disabled and dependent on family and friends. She prayed for a miracle.

Cheryl decided to see a San Antonio epilepsy expert who comes to Harlingen every three months to see patients as part of a South Texas Epilepsy Clinic, which is overseen by the Epilepsy Foundation Central & South Texas.

After observing her seizures during a hospitalization at University Hospital in San Antonio, and seeing the signs of brain injury (due to years of seizures) on an MRI, Charles Szabo, M.D., professor and chief of epilepsy at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and co-director of the South Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, told Cheryl she definitely was suffering from a partial epilepsy originating from the temporal lobe. He had additional tests performed to better define the brain region where the seizures originated and the risks of removing that area.

Dr. Alexander Papanastassiou, a neurosurgeon and an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Health Science Center, performed two procedures on Cheryl.

The first was a six-hour implantation of electrodes in her brain. For the next eight days, Cheryl stayed in an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. At the end of this monitoring session, Dr. Papanastassiou performed another six-hour procedure. He removed the electrodes and then removed parts of her brain in the left temporal lobe, including a scarred hippocampus.

Since having the surgery on Nov. 3, 2011, Cheryl has not had a single seizure and is not taking any medicine. She is now independent and calls the doctors her angels.

WHO: Charles Szabo, M.D., professor and chief of epilepsy at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and co-director of the South Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, will be in Harlingen later this week to see patients.

Patient Cheryl Valdez will be available to discuss what she calls “an answer to our prayers.”

WHEN: Thursday, June 20, and Friday, June 21
Please set up a time for interviews beforehand because the doctor will be seeing patients throughout the two days. (Contact Sofia Lopez-Ibanez below.)

WHERE: UT Health Science Center’s Regional Academic Health Center2101 Treasure Hills Blvd., Harlingen

CONTACT: To schedule an interview, please call Sofia Lopez-Ibanez, M.S.W., clinical services manager, Epilepsy Foundation Central & South Texas, at 210-240-7258.

UT Medicine San Antonio is the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. With more than 700 doctors – all School of Medicine faculty – UT Medicine is the largest medical practice in Central and South Texas. Expertise is in more than 100 medical specialties and subspecialties. Primary care doctors and specialists see patients in private practice at UT Medicine’s flagship clinical home, the Medical Arts & Research Center (MARC), located at 8300 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio 78229. Most major health plans are accepted, and UT Medicine physicians also practice at several local and regional hospitals. Call (210) 450-9000 to schedule an appointment, or visit for a list of clinics and phone numbers.

Share This Article!