- Associated Press - Sunday, August 17, 2014

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP) - It is Thursday night, July’s last hurrah, four X’s on the calendar until 22-year-old Ashley Kelley goes in for her life’s second major surgery. This time, doctors will take out a piece of her skull and replace it with a newly FDA-certified device called a NeuroPace RNS System.

The hope - a word Kelley’s Crystal Lake family uses often - is that the NeuroPace controls or reduces or maybe even completely stops all these seizures. Kelley suffers between 15 and 20 of them a month, ranging in duration and intensity but sometimes teetering toward life-threatening. Her mother tracks them in a pink binder, and it is thick.

Purple is the color given to epilepsy awareness, and this parking lot is acutely aware.

A couple families came together to make shirts in the color of the cause. They adorn the majority of the crowd, which surely tops the 122 people who accepted the invitation on Facebook.

“Look at all these people she’s touched,” said Gina Smak, Kelley’s boss at a Woods Creek-based before and after-school program. “Is it not amazing to be a part of this?”

At 8:01 p.m., the group herds across the street, toward the house on the corner. They’re off to greet Kelley with a send-off and prayer vigil - a show of support for a young woman who’s been through a lot.

But it’s a surprise.

So shhhhh.

Risks rise as time goes by

Kelley’s first seizure came at 16 months, presenting itself in a way now familiar but at the time foreign - and frightening. A second ago, she’d been giggling on the swings. Now she would give no reaction to the cues of her parents.

Emergency responders told the Kelleys their daughter was having a seizure - and a serious one, at that. It was the beginning of what has become an unpredictable life.

Kelley, to this day, rarely gets the more noticeable Grand mal seizures, which present as violent muscle contractions. But, as time ticks and Kelley doesn’t come out of a seizure, the risk of lifelong complications increases.

“Her heart rate continues to drop, and it gets so low that without medical intervention, we’re not going to get her back,” Gail Kelley said.

Brain damage, too, becomes a risk at a point.

Lately, the seizures have been coming more frequently - more than once a day at times. At best, they’re done in 25 or 30 seconds.

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