A state-of-the-art addition at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax is helping diagnose, investigate and treat seizures.

The new Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) opened in June. It features cutting-edge technology and space to treat more patients.

"What we're doing is recording brain waves 24 hours a day, and that's done by attaching electrodes on the scalp and simultaneously videoing the patients," says Dr. Mark Sadler, a neurologist at the QEII.

The new, expanded unit can accommodate four patients, which is double the occupancy of the old space. One of the motivating factors behind the expansion was to cut down on the one to one-and-a-half-year waitlist.

"If you're out there having seizures not infrequently and waiting for a chance to have a life, that's a really long time to have to wait," says epilepsy program co-ordinator Susan Rahey.     

Rahey says a lot of planning went into the unit, and due to the dangerous nature of many seizures, safety was a major focus.

"You can get your hand caught between the bed and the side rail. You can hurt your arm by when it moves against the side rail. You can get out of bed and trip over something when you're in a confused state," Rahey says.

Registered nurse Kari Harrisoncan easily relate to her epilepsy patients. She had her first seizure a week after graduating high school.

Harrison says she saw different neurologists in her home province of New Brunswick and tried multiple medications to control her epilepsy over the years. She was eventually referred toDr. Sadlerin Halifax when she was 22.

"He said, ‘I think we can help you, admit you to the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit and really find out the root cause of the seizures,’” says Harrison.

Harrison – who was once having up to 64 seizures a day – has been seizure-free for seven years. She now works in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit.

"Everything is padded,” says Harrison. “We have Plexiglas over the taps, we have cushioned floor, windowsills are padded. Everything is seizure-safe in here."

Harrison knows the importance of the unit and calibre of care first-hand.

"You get your life back,” she says. “You're seizure-free. It's incredible the difference it makes."