Utah Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery Collaborate to Treat Decades of Epilepsy
Dec 17, 2021 12:10 PM
Anthony Capra, currently 51, lives with his family on a 5,000-acre sheep and cattle ranch in southeast Montana in the small town of Boyes. To this day, Boyes’ population is merely the number of people who reside at the Capra’s ranch. Even the general store and post office employees are from out of town.
Often seen wearing his protective crash helmet and trademarked smile, Anthony is known for his brilliant mind. Dr. Daniel Scoles, a neuroscientist with University of Utah Health and Anthony’s cousin, remembers that he was impressed that Anthony, even at a young age, had memorized all of the cattle brands of southeast Montana. Anthony can also tell you the model numbers of all their John Deere tractors. However, despite the peaceful scenery and Anthony’s brilliance, one thing has held Anthony back for over 50 years: his epilepsy.
Anthony’s epilepsy has often made him functionally dependent on his family members, and while managing Capra Ranch is a full-time job, taking care of each other comes first. For the first 16 years of his life, Anthony’s mother, Mariam, dedicated herself to his constant, unconditional, and loving care before he moved to a relatively nearby care center. And all the Capra children—Mike, Louise, Roseann, Laurie, and their families—have contributed to Anthony’s care ever since.
Anthony and his family have tried several different treatments to manage his condition. For years, Anthony had a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS), a pacemaker-like device that reduced the number and severity of his seizures by sending small electrical pulses to the nerves connecting the chest and abdomen to the brainstem. But by 2019, Anthony’s seizures no longer successfully responded to treatment.
In addition to operating Capra Ranch and caring for their 92-year-old father, Anthony’s brother 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—who had begun suffering seizures as often as every minute.
So Anthony and the Capra family reached out to Dr. Scoles, who contacted fellow neurology faculty member and chief of the epilepsy division, Dr. Amir Arain. After multiple MRI scans, EEGs, and visits with Dr. Arain, Anthony was told that surgery would give him the best chance.
Surgery for epilepsy may sound drastic; but surgical intervention can be life-restoring for people like Anthony, who suffer from a particular type of epilepsy and whose seizures can't be controlled with medications.
A standard procedure for treatment-resistant epilepsy is corpus callosotomy, the surgical separation of the right- and left-brain hemispheres halting the exchange of information between the two, and has been consistently shown to alleviate seizures effectively.
Anthony’s care team decided to perform a selective posterior corpus callosotomy procedure—a cutting-edge surgical technique available at only a few medical centers in the United States. Although complete callosotomies are traditionally performed on younger patients, many adults can benefit from similar techniques. Anthony’s surgery was performed in March of 2020 by Dr. John Rolston, director of functional neurosurgery at University of Utah Health.
Immediately post-op, Anthony spent two weeks in recovery, before being transferred to a rehabilitation center where he spent two months entirely seizure-free. He is now happily back at the ranch, working on improving his coordination and balance, his crash helmet in storage. “I have my own choices now,” said Anthony.
Being able to witness Anthony’s significant recovery was a huge moment for his mother, he recalled; and both of them were grateful she could be a part of it before unfortunately passing away in September of 2020.
The entire Capra family is thrilled for Anthony and hopeful for a brighter future. They would like to thank everyone who contributed to Anthony’s successful treatment.