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Marty Schofield at his mom’s kitchen table with a printout of his brain scans. Schofield has suffered 25,000 seizures in his life. Doctors believe they may be able to correct the problem through surgery.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Marty Schofield at his mom’s kitchen table with a printout of his brain scans. Schofield has suffered 25,000 seizures in his life. Doctors believe they may be able to correct the problem through surgery.

Wanting to
be normal

Hartselle man hopes surgery will eliminate seizures

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Marty Schofield doesn’t wish for a million dollars or a flashy sports car.

He loves football, but never dreamed of playing in the National Football League.

He never wanted to be the starting quarterback at Hartselle High or the top student in school.

His dreams are not material, and for the most part, haven’t changed much since he was born.

“I just want to be normal, like most people my age,” Schofield said, calmly, at the kitchen table of his parents’ home.

Temporal lobe seizures

By legal standards, he is an adult. But, because he suffers temporal lobe seizures, sometimes within minutes of each other, the 32-year-old Hartselle man is in many ways the little boy he has always been.

Schofield fiercely wants to be independent, and that dream may come true.

Doctors at The University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital think they have isolated the part of Schofield’s brain that causes his seizures.

If they are right, the next step is to cut open his skull and place electrodes on that part of the brain to monitor activity, his parents said.

If the electrodes determine this portion of the brain is not controlling major functions such as sight and hearing, Schofield will have surgery.

“This is the best hope we have had in 32 years,” his mother, Lynn Schofield, said.

Marty’s response: “I hope they can do surgery. I just want to be able to learn everything. I want to get credit in my name and learn how to buy a car. I’m ready to pay my own bills and get my driver license. That’s not asking for too much, is it?”

To understand his dream to be what he calls normal, you have to go back to his childhood when Marty was born the third child to Bob and Lynn Schofield.

Early childhood problems

Marty, his parents said, looked and acted as normal as their two oldest children. One month after celebrating his second birthday in September 1976, he began to drool excessively. Unsure of what to do, his parents took him to the emergency room at Decatur General Hospital.

Marty spent three days in the hospital, with seizures occurring every hour. Doctors questioned his parents about whether he had fallen or if there was a history of seizures in the family. The answer to both questions was no.

Four days after the drooling incident, Marty had an electroencephalogram at Huntsville Hospital.

Unable to determine the cause of the seizures that were now more violent and more frequent, doctors sent him to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

At one point during his two-week stay in Birmingham, Marty’s medical records show he had 30 seizures in an eight-hour period.

Still, unable to identify the source of the seizures, doctors prescribed medication.

Marty returned to Hartselle, enrolled in a private day care and appeared to be making progress. Then came September 1979 and a conversation with an employee at his private school.

School officials told Marty’s father that he appeared to be “daydreaming” several times daily. Faculty members couldn’t get his attention.

“I knew this meant take him out of school,” said his father.

That proved wise because Sept. 16, 1979, Marty had 35 seizures between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The Schofields took their son back to Children’s Hospital and for the first time received a medical term to describe Marty’s condition.

Doctors termed the seizures psychomotor, sometimes called temporal lobe seizures because of where they originate.

With the help of sometimes 26 pills per day, Marty struggled through elementary, middle and high school.

Feeling different

Marty knew he was different, but his classmates and teachers included him as much as possible.

When he was manager of the football team, for example, the cheerleaders decorated his locker just as they did for players.

The Schofields have tried to let their son live as independently as possible. Although he relies on his parents for meals, transportation and to pay bills, he has had his own residence for 10 years.

“I know I live by myself, but I still feel like I’m 15,” Marty said.

In his lifetime, doctors estimate that Marty has suffered 25,000 seizures and swallowed more than 250,000 prescription pills.

Almost from the time of his first seizure, his parents have kept monthly charts dating the seizures and tracking medication.

“I know his prescription medication alone has cost almost $1 million,” Bob said.

Doctors estimate that 1 in 100 Americans will have a seizure. Medication controls seizures in 99 percent of people.

“Marty, unfortunately, is in that 1 percent,” his father said.

Trying to predict when their son will have seizures is something the Schofields have stopped doing. They do know that he had at least 12 in April, eight in May, six in June and 10 in July. Back in November, however, Marty had 78 seizures and doctors changed his medication.

During a magnetoencephalogram on July 12, Marty’s brain malfunctioned every two seconds, but doctors think they isolated the part of the brain causing the seizures, his parents said.

It was in his temporal lobe, which is the portion of the brain that extends from the temples to just past the ears.

According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, temporal lobe seizures are due to abnormal electrical activity in the temporal lobe. Sometimes these seizures are caused by an abnormality in the temporal lobe, such as a tiny scar or tumor, but often no identifiable cause is found.

Birmingham physicians are evaluating brain scans of Marty taken while he was having a seizure in the hospital last month.

Cautiously optimistic

The Schofields are cautiously optimistic that doctors will identify the cause of Marty’s seizures. They want so badly for their son to have the life he wants, but disappointment has too often tempered hope.

As for Marty, he calls what doctors said last month the best news he has received in his life.

He’s holding closer to hope than his parents are because he said he’s tired of taking more than 20 pills daily and sleeping 14 hours per day.

Marty, who has taught himself to read on a computer, said he has so many people to thank and so much to give the world.

He has a certificate of attendance from Hartselle High, but he wants his general equivalency diploma.

He has had a temporary driving permit, but he wants a permanent driver license. He has helped his parents with antique collecting, but he wants to be a real estate agent.

“I just want to be able to get up in the morning and do the normal things,” Marty said.

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