‘We saw her basically turn into a zombie and we didn’t know if we’d ever get her back.’
Last month Whitehorse mom Fawn Fritzen was able to tell her friends on Facebook that her nine-year-old daughter Jade, who has epilepsy, had been seizure-free for five years.
For years, Fritzen and Jade’s dad Michael Pealow, kept track of every snack and meal Jade ate, took ketone readings morning and night and recorded every seizure they observed.
On May 16, 2010, they observed two. Those were the last seizures they saw Jade have. For her parents, Jade’s recovery is a miracle.
“You know she had been a really healthy bright cheerful girl and once the seizures started and kept getting worse and worse and with side effects from the medications we saw her basically turn into a zombie, she was not responsive, she was not learning anymore, and we didn’t know if we’d ever get her back,” says Fritzen.
Michael Pealow and Fawn Fritzen with daughter Jade say for them Jade’s recovery has been a miracle. (Dave Croft/CBC)
With the epilepsy medications not working, Jade’s parents put her on a ketogenic diet. The therapy was used in the past, but fell into disuse with the development of anticonvulsant drugs.
The diet is mostly fat with a little protein and almost no carbohydrates. The lack of glucose as an energy source in the body is what reduces and eliminates seizures. Much of Jade’s nutrition came from vitamin supplements.
‘Not a fad’ diet and ‘very strict’
Pealow says the diet was tried after consultation with a doctor. He says it was not easy as everything Jade ate had to be measured to a tenth of a gram.
“For five years, we kept track of every snack and meal we made, took ketone readings morning and night, and recorded every seizure we observed,” wrote Fawn Fritzen.
“It’s definitely not some kind of fad type thing, it is a very strict, medically-supervised diet that has its own side effects. Most people will go to medications first because they are easier,” he says.
Fritzen says, in theory, the diet could help anyone with epilepsy.
“It’s not usually used as a first line of defense because it’s quite a challenging treatment and the whole family has to be committed to it,” she says.
Jade is now on a regular diet and has no seizures. Spaghetti is her favourite food. The changes have opened up many more activities for the whole family.
“We went camping on the long weekend which is something that we hadn’t done in — I don’t think we’ve done that as a family cause it was really difficult to get all of Jade’s food ready for a weekend,” says Fritzen.