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A ‘Fit’ of Laughter Silenced by an Unusual Surgey

Anastasia Lagala's was quite a spectacle when she had epileptic seizures, almost 30 a day. What made her stand apart was - during her fit//, her face had a scowl and a guttural sinister laughter would emanate from her throat, as she convulsed.

This had led her to be named as "The Joker face," by her physician, Dr. Steven Schneider, of Schneider Children's Hospital in New Hyde Park.

This girl, all of 3 years suffered a very uncommon type of epilepsy called gelastic epilepsy for the past one year. After the recent breakthrough surgery she underwent on March 30th, the girl has been thankfully seizure-free. This type of epilepsy makes the victim suffer numerous seizures lasting 10 seconds each.

The girl’s mother, Jessica Anderson, 23, said, "It was very frightening at first when we didn't know what was going on. She was smiling and grinding and laughing. It sounded very scary.”

Anastasia's hypothalamus was home to a benign tumor which was causing the seizures. This condition termed in medical parlance as hypothalamic hamartoma, is extremely rare affecting about 30 people worldwide each year. If the condition is left untreated, it could also cause mental retardation. This condition does not improve with medication.

Dr Schneider, co-chief of the hospital's pediatric neurosurgery unit, after examining the child, took a decision of operating upon the child. He did this by dividing the lobes of the little girl’s brain. Using a navigation system he negotiated his way to the tumor, which proved very tough to spot. The grape-sized tumor was eventually removed.

Since the surgery, Anastasia has not suffered another attack. But at this stage it is still premature to say if she will suffer any developmental problems. The doctor is extremely happy with the success so far , in what is certainly a rare feat.

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