Twenty-year-old Jacob loves the holidays. He delights in cracking jokes that make everyone at the table laugh during festive family meals. But holidays haven’t always been so joyful for Jacob’s family. From the time he was a baby, he spent most holidays in bed. He has a brain disorder that caused developmental delays and dangerous seizures—sometimes 17 a day. “Holiday excitement would overwhelm him and his seizures would take days to recover from,” his mom Jennifer, says.

Jacob first visited Children’s National Hospital hours after his birth. SkyBear, our rapid helicopter transport service, was on its way to pick up another newborn at the same regional hospital in southern Maryland. Jacob was in more severe respiratory distress than the other baby, so the team took him first.

He spent 11 days in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Over the next year he was admitted repeatedly as seizures caused him to stop breathing. His seizures ruled his family’s life until Jacob was a teenager. Neurosurgeon Chima Oluigbo, M.D. performed a complicated craniotomy, a brain surgery, when he was 17, with the goal of improving his quality of life. It worked.

Before the surgery, Jacob didn’t talk much, experienced serious anxiety and had trouble expressing his emotions. He had never told his mother that he loved her. After the surgery, Jacob looked at her and said, “I love you, babe.”

Jacob has been happy and seizure free for more than two years and looks forward to the holidays. “His laughter is something I'll never tire of hearing,” Jennifer says. “Words can’t express the gratitude we have for everyone at Children’s National. They gave my son his life back.”

A young patient at Children's National Hospital.

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.