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11-year-old Warner Robins gymnast overcomes epilepsy

At 8-years-old, Anabela experienced her first seizure at gymnastics practice and then she would have as many as 15 seizures a day.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. 11-year-old gymnast Anabela Kay from Warner Robins has overcome a lot after being diagnosed with epilepsy.

Peggy Kay, Anabela's mom, says this is how it started...

"Bela has a rare kind of seizure to where her breathing stops or her heart stops. Now, not all epileptics go through that, but Bela will with every seizure," said Kay.

At 8-years-old, Anabela experienced her first seizure at gymnastics practice and then she would have as many as 15 seizures a day.

"She was rushed to the emergency room. She had another one at the hospital that day and her breathing stopped, and they had to rip her leotard," said Kay.

Despite her condition, Anabela still pursued her love for gymnastics. Her coach, Colleen Pinto, and her parents say it was hard to watch her struggle with epilepsy.

"Physically, health wise, you could just see her deteriorating. She would forget her floor routine. She would forget stuff in the gym, like stuff that's she's been doing for months and years at a time. It was honestly almost heartbreaking," said Pinto.

"It always stands out in my mind the statement she made, 'I just want it to stop.' You could tell when you went to her after she had a seizure she was just happy to see a familiar face," said Anabela's father, Rienk Kay. 

Anabela's pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Jason E. Blatt, says he tells parents once their child has recovered, their child can start a normal life.

"She had a temporal lobectomy, which is removal of the temporal lobe. Kind of here above the ear, behind the temple. Fortunately, it also has one of the best surgical outcomes. We have multiple studies that show that surgery is superior to even medication for children with temporal lobe epilepsy," said Blatt.

After a year of dealing with multiple seizures a day, Anabela underwent the life saving surgery. Now, at 11-years-old, she is essentially cured.

"It's always fun to be around Anabela. She will come up and she'll give you the biggest hug and squeeze you and tell you about her day, and ask how your day was. She's just like so selfless," said Pinto.

Now, Anabela wants to be a positive influence on other kids just like her.

"I want to do both. I want to help kids who have seizures and other things, and teach kids to do gymnastics," she said.

Dr. Blatt says all cases of epilepsy are different and you should consult with your doctor or neurosurgeon for the best treatment plan.

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