By Natalie Homan from In The Cloud Copy
It’s estimated that about 3.4 million Americans have epilepsy, one of many conditions that can cause seizures. Seizures occur when there is an electrical disturbance in the brain that affects the person’s feelings and actions. A seizure may be an isolated incident in a person’s life, but some conditions, like a tumor or a head injury, mean that a person will experience seizures on a regular basis. As can be imagined, this can greatly interfere with everyday life.
Tongue Biting Injuries During a Seizure
During a seizure, a person generally goes between different levels of consciousness for 30 seconds to two minutes while experiencing uncontrolled movements, mood changes, or loss of bodily control. While a person is often unconscious and doesn’t experience pain during most seizures, it’s very common for the sufferer to bite their tongue or clench their jaw. This can result in broken teeth and a severely bitten tongue that may take several days to heal. While tongue biting is a well-known result of seizures, patients have never had a product they could buy designed specifically to help them avoid this type of injury.
Ashlyn Sanders, a Seizure Sufferer Herself, Realizes there’s a Better Way
Ashlyn Sanders, a young woman who received her Master of Arts in Bioethics and Science Policy from Duke Graduate School in 2015, is working through the final stages of developing a device that could help some seizure sufferers protect their tongues and teeth during a seizure.
Ashlyn has a very personal interest in her invention, as it was her own experience with seizures that led her to begin developing it.
In 2014, Ashlyn was a graduate student planning to go to medical school. Shortly after the school year started, she experienced a seizure for the first time in her life. Ashlyn’s physicians discovered that she had a Chiari (kee-ARE-ee) malformation, a condition that occurs when brain tissue is forced downward into the spinal canal, usually as a result of a skull that is misshapen or too small. The severity of symptoms varies greatly for people with a Chiari malformation, and Ashlyn is one of those who never had any idea that she had a brain condition before her first seizure.
Ashlyn had surgery in 2014 that removed the part of her skull that was causing pressure on her brain. Even though an MRI confirmed that the pressure was alleviated, Ashlyn has continued to experience seizures. She has found that inactivity makes her seizures worse – she has recovered more quickly while actively volunteering, completing school, and building her business, NeuroVice, to which she has devoted her all for the last few years.
PATI—A Device to Prevent Tongue Injury During a Seizure
When Ashlyn realized that there was no device designed specifically for seizure sufferers to avoid tongue injuries, she knew that she could create something that would help millions of people. She put her medical school plan on hold to develop the device, which is in Phase 2 (of 3), until it can be available commercially.
Ashlyn’s device is called PATI, short for Protector Against Tongue Injury. It is a small device that can be carried on a wristband. Many people who have seizures experience an aura right beforehand that warns them they’re about to have a seizure. Many people also have seizures while they sleep. Before a person goes to bed – or when they experience their aura – they can put the device in their mouth and remove it in the morning or once the seizure has subsided.
Ashlyn is confident that this device will bring relief to many people who experience seizures on a regular basis. She hopes the product will be on the market by the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022.