In January I had the pleasure of traveling with Dr. Jeff Loeb, the Head of the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and Dr. Jesica Herrick, an infectious disease doctor at UIC, to the Hospital de Niños in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Our trip was sponsored by Solidarity Bridge, a not-for-profit that trains and equips Bolivian medical communities. We were also supported by the ROW Foundation through a donation of Roweepra XR (levetiracetam USP, extended-release).
We met with two pediatric neurologists, Dr. Oriana Mendez and Dr. Victor Cuellar, and a neurosurgeon, Dr. Jose Luis Ferrufino. Although they have little training in epilepsy care, neurologists treat all epilepsy patients as there are no epileptologists in Bolivia. About six to eight epilepsy patients arrive at the hospital daily. Many children with seizures never make it to the hospital and are forced to live with the unpredictability of devastating seizures.
The hospital is the only public children’s hospital in a city of 1.5 million people. It has no EEG or MRI machines.
Some basic antiepileptic drugs are available but the most effective ones are very scarce or too expensive. This is why the doctors were so appreciative of the ROW donation of Roweepra XR, a branded generic antiepileptic medication.
We discussed establishing an epilepsy clinic in partnership with UIC and Solidarity Bridge, and a possible regional conference on epilepsy for neurologists from Bolivia and surrounding countries. We also considered donations of medical resources such as a video EEG machine and ongoing supplies of Roweepra and Subvenite (lamotrigine USP) from ROW.
Our Bolivian friends were very excited by our visit and the possibilities for an epilepsy clinic. Much work remains to be done to bring the project to fruition, but the faces of the children we visited and treated made us all resolve to work harder to make this dream a reality.
Kurt Florian, JD, is on the ROW advisory council and on the board of Solidarity Bridge. His childhood experiences with seizures, as well has his daughter’s epilepsy, inspire his ongoing commitment to the epilepsy community around the world.