Brad Rinehart’s motto is, “never ever give up.” He lives in Aurora with his wife Tracy and their two dogs Magnum and Mocha. They were married in 2000 and life was as normal as could be until 2001 when Brad suddenly had a breakthrough seizure. It was the first of hundreds that have since become a part of Brad’s life. Brad has experienced as many as 15 seizures a day when things were at their worst, but he has worked with doctors in Florida, Connecticut and California to bring those numbers down to two or three seizures per day today. He has a Vagus Nerve Stimulator implanted in his chest and a NeuroPace Stimulator implanted in his brain to help control his epilepsy. Brad is confident that one day he will overcome his challenges with epilepsy.
[Brad Rinehart (L) pictured with family and friends at the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado’s Stride’s for Epilepsy 5k in Denver.]
Through all of his experience, he is grateful for the ability to remain active. Brad’s story is about family, running, medical care and the support of his wife Tracy in helping him to overcome the challenges of epilepsy.
One of Brad’s greatest challenges has been not knowing when his seizures will strike. Brad
explains, “An alcoholic can stop. They can stop cold turkey and have a clear day. I can’t stop.” Brad does not have warnings or auras before his seizures, and he never grows accustomed to being caught off guard by his seizures. “That is a source of frustration.” Brad expands, “when you have an epileptic problem you are always tired, all the time.” He acknowledges that epilepsy will be with him for his entire life. Brad’s wife, Tracy, discusses additional challenges, “He has given up the freedom to drive…he has given up the freedom to be by himself, pretty much all the time.” Brad also had to give up a career in the hospitality business, which Brad describes as, “…being like a second family…I did not know how to say goodbye to my second family.”
“My family is my rock,” Brad explains. “As much as a lot of people have said that, it really is true – Tracy really is my rock…when I had four brain surgeries, we joke by saying that she got a degree in neurology.” Tracy elaborates, “Our friends and family are there all the time. They understand the situation. We have no secrets, we are unashamed, and our friends know what to do.” Brad also benefits greatly from athletic activities – especially running. His favorite organized run is the Bolder Boulder 10k, which he runs every year with his brother. “This is now my favorite race that we do together…you know many of the greatest runners of all time are running here…It’s my favorite run and there is no other run like it.” Brad has run ½ Marathons and is working toward the goal of running a full Marathon. Once he has done so, he aspires to tackle longer endurance races as well. In simplest terms, Brad explains, “Running is a stress relief for me – it makes me feel better.”
Doctors and Treatment
Brad suffers primarily from partial-complex seizures, which occur two or three times a day. Brad’s first seizure occurred when he was very young, but when he was sixteen they stopped for a period of eight or nine years. In 2001 they resumed with a tonic-clonic (grand-mal) seizure. Initially, it was not uncommon for him to experience 15 partial-complex seizures in a day after that. When asked about which medications he has taken, Brad responds, “Almost all of them.” Currently, he is taking 4 doses a day of a “cocktail” of three different medications: Depacote, Tegratol and Zonegran. Brad has pursued other treatment options as well. Several years ago, Brad had a Vagus Nerve Stimulator implanted in his chest. VNS is a small device designed to give off electrical charges that will prevent seizure activity in patients. Brad has had only limited success with the VNS. Brad has also had four different brain surgeries – most-recently at Yale New-Haven Hospital under the care of husband and wife team, Drs. Dennis and Susan Spencer – neurosurgeon and neurologist respectively. He recalls his experiences at Yale New Haven hospital fondly, describing the wide variety of memory tests that nurses had him perform, and talking about the positive nature of his doctors. When he left, Brad had become the first patient to ever be implanted with a NeuroPace Stimulator. The stimulator is a small electrical device implanted in the brain designed to deliver electrical stimulation to prevent seizures. Brad’s surgery was a huge help, and it greatly reduced the number and severity of his seizures. Yale and USC are the two primary University Hospitals in the country working with NeuroPace, and Brad is currently seeing a neurologist named Catherine Heck at USC.
Tips and Tricks
Brad’s primary advice for people with seizures is, “Never ever give up.” Tracy adds to that, “I agree – stay active with it and find that one thing that you really enjoy doing and keep it in your daily routine. With Brad, he didn’t always run, but it’s something he’s been passionate about since I met him and the relief he feels when he comes back from a run…he’s a new person.” Brad emphasizes the importance of keeping a positive attitude, as well. “We call it ‘Mr. E.’ – one day we’re going to beat it. In the meantime we have fun with it.”
Brad and Tracy visited the Seize The World tent at Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado’s Strides For Epilepsy 5k Run/Walk this June. They connected with Stephen during the following weeks to Share Their Story. Stephen met with Brad and Tracy in Centennial, Colorado for coffee and to hear about their experiences. He was amazed by what they have accomplished in spite of some major hurdles. Stephen is excited to connect with both of them again soon at upcoming STW events!!