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Somerset girl hopes surgery will stop seizures

Moriah Everson (right), pictured with her mother, Pat Everson, is preparing to undergo surgery that could help improve her epilepsy. Moriah Everson checked into the hospital for pre-operation procedures on Tuesday, Jan. 15.1 / 2
Moriah Everson stands next to a chainsaw-carved wooden eagle statue that will be auctioned off at the spaghetti dinner fundraiser scheduled on Jan. 26. The fundraiser is being held by friends of the Eversons to help the family pay for Moriah Everson's hospital bills.2 / 2

Moriah Everson had her first seizure when she was 18 months old.

"I could tell something wasn't right and we went running in," said Pat Everson, Moriah Everson's mother. "It was scary, we just prayed over her and we called 911 right away."

That was only the first of many grand mal seizures, according to Pat Everson. She said Moriah Everson's seizures have increased over time and now, at 11 years old, she has a grand mal seizure about once a week.

"It's been freaky," Moriah Everson said of a life with epilepsy. "There's like no warning and everything goes pitch black."

Grand mal seizures involve loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions, according to the Mayo Clinic's website. According to the site, they are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Because she could have a seizure at any moment, there are several things Moriah Everson can't do. She has to be careful to avoid the things that trigger seizures, which include strobe lights; too much television, computer or video game time; lack of sleep; and overheating.

Someone has to be with Moriah Everson at all times. When she's not at school, one of her parents is with her, even waiting outside the door when she showers.

Moriah Everson describes the lack of privacy as "awkward," but she and her mother agree it can't be helped.

In school, Moriah Everson is watched over by the staff and students of Somerset Middle School. On days that Moriah Everson does have seizures, she may be affected by any of several side-effects including memory problems and tiredness, Pat Everson said.

"The staff has been wonderful, and the teachers and support staff, with helping with homework and just allowing her to take extra days if she has to," Pat Everson said.

Bethany Williamson, children's ministry coordinator for The Bridge Bible Church, to which the Eversons belong, said despite her struggles, she has never heard Moriah Everson complain.

"There's so many limitations on her, but what she can do, she's happy to do and puts her heart into stuff," Williamson said.

She said Moriah Everson's parents are equally strong in their ability to deal with their daughter's epilepsy.

"You can't just drive her and drop her off at a friend's house or say 'Why don't you go outside and play so I can get stuff done,'" Williamson said. "So that can be draining, but they love, love, love her so much and just have so much patience and just faith, really they just have so much faith and they are amazing, amazing parents."

Moriah Everson has been on anti-seizure medication for years, Pat Everson said. Moriah Everson has tried about eight different anti-seizure medications in various mixtures and nothing is working anymore.

The next step in treatment for Moriah Everson is surgery. Pat Everson said Moriah's neurologists hope to find a specific area from which the seizures start by measuring the electrical activity in her brain during a seizure.

However, after a month in the hospital, measuring Moriah Everson's brain activity during seizures, pediatric neurologists weren't able to pinpoint one location.

So, she is going to undergo a surgical procedure that the Eversons hope will allow the neurologists to locate the source of the seizures.

"They take her scalp off," Pat Everson said. "It's a plastic grid that will be set right onto her brain with nodules on it that will read like an EEG but right on her brain rather than on top of her head."

If all goes well and the neurologists are able to use the brain grid to locate the source of Moriah Everson's seizures, Pat Everson said the neurologists will remove the part of Moriah Everson's brain that the seizures start in, if they are able to. This would, hopefully, end Moriah Everson's seizures.

"The one thing I hate is that they're going to put an IV in me," Moriah Everson said. She said after speaking with her surgeon a week prior to checking into the hospital, she has been less worried about the surgery.

Pat Everson said doctors say the surgery has more than a 70 percent chance of success. She said she is praying that her daughter will end up seizure-free.

"And she'll be able to stay overnight at girlfriends' houses and do normal things without worrying about her safety," Pat Everson said.

Moriah Everson checked into the hospital for pre-operation procedures on Tuesday. The brain grid surgery is scheduled for Thursday. She will remain in the hospital with the grid in place until she has had enough seizures for the doctors to collect enough data to pinpoint the location of her seizures.

At this point, all the Eversons can do is wait and pray, Pat Everson said. She said "God, prayers and humor" have gotten the family through the difficult times they've had with Moriah Everson's epilepsy.

"God has gotten us through this far and he'll continue to do so," Pat Everson said.

To help support the Everson family, a group of friends, led by Patty Schachtner, Somerset High School nurse and a colleague of Pat Everson, has organized a spaghetti dinner and auction fundraiser on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 3 p.m. at Somerset High School.

"We've just been blessed by the teachers, the staff that watch over her daily," Pat Everson said, "and the community."

The benefit is open to all, with a free-will donation. The auction items have been donated and in some cases, hand-made by Somerset High School students and staff and by community members, according to Schachtner. She said Aviands, the food service used by the Somerset School District, donated all of the food for the meal.

"This procedure that she's going through is pretty intense," Schachtner said. "We just want to help her out."

For more information about the spaghetti dinner fundraiser, contact Schachtner at 715-247-4848 ext. 230 or

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048