Linda Abu Rayyan: Fighting Illness in Style

This sweet girl, named Linda, was born in 2010 as a healthy child. She had a normal childhood, where she had started walking, talking and playing with her siblings, until she reached the age of three. That’s when she started experiencing seizures.

Linda was taken to different neurologists in her hometown of Hebron, who confirmed that she indeed had electrical disturbances in the brain, which in turn caused these seizures. She was prescribed several antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) as a result. In the two years that followed, the family had lost contact with Linda and always saw an unhappy, sleepy and non-responding little girl that suffered from multiple seizures a day. In addition to that, the family noticed that she was not developing anymore and had lost previously acquired skills, including walking and talking. At that time, doctors informed Linda’s parents that she wasn’t going to live much longer. 

Known for being a pillar in pediatric neurology, many acquaintances had recommended Linda should be brought to Caritas Baby Hospital (CBH) for treatment. She came for the first visit in August 2020, where she met with one of our neuropediatric specialists, Dr. Moti Ashhab. He ordered an electroencephalogram (EEG) test to be performed on Linda, which detects electrical activity in the brain. The EEG showed a typical pattern for Lennox Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy that is characterized by a high seizure frequency and a gradual unresponsiveness to AEDs.

In line with the multidisciplinary approach to treatment adopted in CBH, Linda also met with our dietician, Ms. Marianne Petro, who recommended a ketogenic diet – a dietary program that comprises a high ratio of fats to proteins and carbohydrates – as a form of treatment. The goal of this diet was to induce ketone formation by using fat instead of carbohydrates (sugar) as the body’s main source of energy, thereby reducing electrical disturbances in the brain. It is worth noting that CBH is recognized as one of five hospitals in the Middle East and the only hospital in Palestine to offer the ketogenic diet as a therapy tool for patients suffering from neurological and metabolic disorders.  

She was admitted into one of the inpatient wards after which, to enable the permanent neuropediatric specialist Dr. Nader Handal, the dietician and the medical team to keep an eye on her and see how her body responded to this diet. The ketogenic diet has strict rules and was hard for her at first to adapt to; but she then gradually became receptive to it. 16 days later, Linda went back home and was given a program to follow. 

Linda’s family soon noticed a remarkable change: the seizures became less frequent and were milder and Linda felt less drowsy and displayed an overall better behavior. 7 months later and up to this day, Linda did not suffer from a single seizure and proved her need for fewer AEDs.  

With the commitment and support of her siblings and her family who are well-aware of her condition, Linda has now become more aware of her body, is becoming more interactive with her siblings and is coping well with the diet that saved her life.    

Linda comes to CBH for follow-up appointments with the pediatric neurologist and dietician on a monthly basis to monitor her progress. Ms. Petro calls the mother on a regular basis, as well, to see how Linda is doing and to chitchat with her. 

Prepared by: Shaden Shaer