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July 31, 2007

Chief Justice Roberts and seizures

From the Associated Press via MSNBC...

Chief Justice John Roberts suffered a seizure at his summer home in Maine on Monday, causing a fall that resulted in minor scrapes, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said....

Doctors called Monday’s incident “a benign idiopathic seizure,” Arberg said. The White House described the January 1993 episode as an “isolated, idiosyncratic seizure.” Both descriptions indicate that doctors could not determine the seizure’s cause or link it to another medical condition. For example, doctors would have quickly ruled out simple explanations such as dehydration or low blood sugar....

Someone who has had more than one seizure without any other cause is determined to have epilepsy, said Dr. Marc Schlosberg, a neurologist at Washington Hospital Center, who is not involved in the Roberts’ case.

In 1983 I had a grand mal seizure. I'd suffered for years from short "black outs" following periods of lack of sleep. The neurologist put me on seizure medication that summer to see if it could control it, but as I left for college that August I forgot the medicine. Being August, in Arkansas, in a dorm with no air-conditioning, I got very little sleep that first night back, and the next morning rather than a simple "black-out" I had a full-blown seizure. I was on the medication until 1997 when a different neurologist wanted to see if my original seizure was caused by going off the medicine too quickly. I went off the medicine slowly, and everything seemed fine, for several months until one morning I again had a seizure.

I'm back on the medicine now, and doing fine.

Not once in all those years did any doctor tell me I had epilepsy. They always called it "idiopathic seizures".

I had been told that a grand mal seizure "scars" the brain by making the pathways more prone to another seizure, so with each additional seizure the chance of having another becomes greater. But Roberts has had only two, and was not on medication either time. The distance in time the two seizures were (14 years) would suggest that even this second one still won't make him prone to them very often, and should be controlled by medication very easily.

I'm allergic to Dilantin which was the most widely use anti-seizure medication at the time of my first seizure, so the doctor put me on an older drug, Phenobarbitol, which does fine, but makes you more sleepy. I've adjusted to it over the years and take it before bedtime, so it really doesn't slow me down. In fact I'm often asked how I have time to do all the things I do. So any medication prescribed for Roberts will in no way inhibit his ability to serve as Chief Justice of the SCOTUS.

Another thing to note, is that seizures have been noted as indicative of an active mind. Seizures are caused, in most cases, by the brain allowing too many signals at once, cause a sort of synaptic "traffic jam". So now we know one factor that led to Roberts being Chief Justice at such a young age.

Posted by Danny Carlton at July 31, 2007 6:27 AM

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