“Split-Brain Surgery” Changed Anthony’s Life
Mar 31, 2021 11:05 AM
Anthony Capra is 51 and has had epilepsy from a young age. He lives with his family on a 5000-acre sheep and cattle ranch in southeast Montana in the town of Boyes. For many years, and even still, Boyes’s population is merely the number of people who resided at Capra Ranch. Even the employees of the Boyes general store and post office are from out of town.
Anthony’s cousin, Dr. Daniel Scoles, says that Anthony has a brilliant mind. He was impressed that, even at a young age, Anthony had memorized all of the cattle brands of southeast Montana. Anthony can tell you the model numbers of all their John Deere tractors and also happens to be a wonderful painter.
For the first 16 years of Anthony’s life, his mother, Mariam, dedicated herself to his constant, unconditional, and loving care until he moved to a relatively nearby care center. Anthony’s brother Mike and Mike’s wife, Connie, operate Capra Ranch and care for their 92-year-old father, Lawrence, who also lives at the ranch. All the Capra children—Mike, Louise, Roseann, Laurie, and their families—have contributed to Anthony’s care. Mike has made the 700-mile trip from Boyes, MT, to Salt Lake City, UT, several times in hopes of finding the treatment for Anthony’s worsening epilepsy.
A possible solution for Anthony’s epilepsy was the corpus callosotomy procedure, also known as “split-brain surgery,” but because this is such a terrifying and invasive procedure, the family understandably chose other options, which included medications, for Anthony. For many years, Anthony also had a vagus nerve stimulator, a device that, much like a pacemaker, delivers small electrical pulses to the vagus nerve that connects the chest and abdomen to the brainstem, reducing the number and severity of seizures that Anthony experienced. However, by 2019, the benefits of the device and medications for Anthony did not persist, and he began having seizures as many as one every minute.
In need of help, the family called Anthony’s cousin, Daniel Scoles, PhD, who is a member of the Neurology faculty and basic scientist. Dr. Scoles put Anthony in contact with Amir Arain, MD, an epileptologist and fellow faculty member. Following multiple visits with Dr. Arain in which MRI scans and EEGs were performed, the decision was made to perform a selective posterior corpus callosotomy, a relatively newer technique that few centers in the
This procedure and technique avoids the cognitive side effects of a complete corpus callosotomy. Typically, any corpus callosotomy is done on young patients and is less common for adults of Anthony’s age. However, adults can benefit from the procedure, and fortunately, this was the case for Anthony.
Ultimately, the procedure was performed by John Rolston, MD, a surgeon and faculty member of the Department of Neurosurgery. Dr. Rolston performed the surgery in March of 2020, just prior to the first major COVID-19 restrictions were put in place at the University of Utah. Following the procedure, Anthony spent two weeks in recovery, then was transferred to a rehabilitation center where he spent two months entirely seizure free. Anthony is now back at the ranch, has learned to walk again, and has put his crash helmet into storage. He says, “I have my own choices now.”
In September 2020, Anthony’s mother passed away at the age of 90. Fortunately, she had been able to witness Anthony’s full recovery, which was a huge milestone in her life as well as his. The Capra family is relieved to have epilepsy behind them, are ecstatic for their beloved Anthony, and would like to thank everyone who contributed to Anthony’s successful treatment.
On behalf of the University of Utah’s Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery, we congratulate Anthony on his full recovery and wish Anthony a long, happy, and seizure-free life.