She’s non-vocal — with brain damage because of a metabolic disorder — so she’s unable to express her thoughts.
But her mother, Paulette Kellogg, easily notices improvement.
“She seems happier and more active,” she said, on a recent Friday. But most importantly: “She hasn’t had a seizure in over a week.”
That’s great progress, considering Jessica, who uses a wheelchair, typically seizes about three times a night.
Jessica, 26, has been taking part in a study for the past month at Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic. Jasen Van Dyke, a student and chiropractic intern, is trying to prove that chiropractic care can help reduce seizure activity.
“There have been plenty of case studies done about the benefits chiropractic care can have on an epileptic patient, but there has been no definitive research that validates it or proves it,” he said.
He is trying to provide that validation.
Van Dyke knows what it’s like to struggle with epilepsy. His 8-year-old daughter, Lilli, has dealt with the disease her entire life.
“When someone has epilepsy, it doesn’t just affect that person, it affects everyone around them,” he said.
Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. Seizures happen when clusters of nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally, which can briefly alter a person’s consciousness, movements or actions, according to The Epilepsy Foundation.
When Lilli was born, Van Dyke said she had to be resuscitated twice before his eyes because of severe seizure activity. As she got older, she began to have seizures about three times a week, and they weren’t treatable with medication.
“It seemed like we were always in the emergency room with her,” he said. “She was doing very poorly.”
Eventually, when Lilli was 3, a friend suggested taking her to a chiropractor. They did and were blown away by the results.
“Since her first adjustment, she has gone from having three seizures per week, to having three seizures per year. That was big.”
Lilli, who has cerebral palsy, now visits the chiropractor about twice a week. Van Dyke said she is able to run and play, even though doctors said she might never walk again.
This miracle is what led Van Dyke to Spartanburg in the first place. The Virginia native decided he wanted to be a chiropractor so he could help others the way other chiropractors have helped his daughter.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, epilepsy affects 2.2 million Americans.
“The reason why I’m here is to hopefully give hope to other people who are like I am,” he said from a small room inside the health clinic at Sherman College.
Kellogg said the study has yielded positive results so far.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. Jessica “takes about five seizure medications, all of which have side effects. This doesn’t have any side effects.”
Why it helps
Dr. George A. Auger, a chiropractor and teacher at Sherman College, says chiropractic work doesn’t just benefit the back — it helps the whole body function better.
“The brain sends signals through the central nervous system, down the brain stem, into the spinal cord and through the rest of the body,” he said. “What happens in life, is we fall or we have an automobile accident, or an accident with sports, we have problems with our posture. We have a lot of physical things that happen that can cause the spinal bones to shift, and that can alter nerve flow.”
He said if nerve flow to the brain is altered, a person might be prone to seizures.
“By a chiropractor evaluating the alignment of the spine and how that relates to nerve function and removing any misaligned vertebrae that is interfering with nerve function, we can restore balance and make the body function better,” Auger said.
While chiropractic care can’t cure epilepsy, Auger thinks the subjects in Van Dyke’s study should expect improvement.
Right now, Van Dyke’s only subject is Jessica, but he is hoping more people with epilepsy or a history of seizures will get involved. If he gets enough involvement, he hopes to publish his findings in a journal.