Douglas student to have brain surgery |

Douglas student to have brain surgery

Sharlene Irete
Tribune News Service

Shannon Litz / Tribune News ServiceJesse Buchanan at home in the Gardnerville Ranchos on July 21.

Danny and Marlene Collins of the Gardnerville Ranchos thought their son Jesse Buchanan was going through preteen awkwardness when he starting dropping things and having brief staring spells.

“When Jesse was in sixth grade, he started dropping his pencil and would stare,” said Marlene. “This went on for about a year and then Jesse said he wanted to go to the doctor. That night he had his first grand mal seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy.”

Now a 16-year-old sophomore at Douglas High School, Jesse can have hundreds of seizures a day for no known reason. Marlene said some are brief and hardly noticeable, while others cause convulsions severe enough to disrupt his ability to participate at school and in the usual activities of a teenaged boy.

“He’s been out riding his bike, had a seizure and has been on the ground,” she said. “They came without warning. He hasn’t been able to snowboard for the past couple of years because of the seizures.”

Marlene said after Jesse was diagnosed with epilepsy, he was on many different medicines that were expensive, sometimes had scary side effects, and ultimately not successful in controlling his seizures.

The family was referred to the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento where Jesse will have brain surgery this fall to remove the tissue causing his seizures. Doctors say the operation should make Jesse’s epilepsy manageable or possibly keep his seizures from occurring at all.

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“This has been overwhelming,” said Marlene. “I’m looking forward to the surgery because he’s on extremely high doses of meds. He takes a handful in the morning and a handful at night. It takes away his personality and energy. It will be nice getting him back.”

The family’s health insurance covers a portion of the procedure, but not all of it. They have several more trips to make to UC Davis before Jesse’s brain surgery. He will be in the hospital two weeks to a month, followed by months of recovery.

“We have insurance but it doesn’t cover everything,” said Marlene. “Medicine is $150 a month plus co-pays. We’ve been going back and forth to Davis, a 2 1/2 hour drive, plus hotels and food. We’ll be over there for a week at a time and none of this is covered by insurance.”

After Jesse comes home, they’ll be tutoring to get him caught up with his schoolwork. Marlene will take a leave of absence from her job at Bank of America because Jesse won’t be able to be alone.

“Jesse asked me if the surgery was going to cost a lot,” said Marlene. “‘As much as a Lamborghini?’ I told him it would and he said, ‘Let’s forget the surgery and get the car instead.'”

To help the family with expenses, an account for Jesse Buchanan is set up under his name at Bank of America: 501007299274. There are tentative plans to have a fundraising barbecue event in August. Contact Marlene Collins at (775) 690-3235.