January 17, 2008
At five months of age, Carson Harris began to exhibit behaviors that perplexed her first-time parents. Following crying fits, the infant would stare off into space. When she began periodically to shrug her shoulders, lifting her arms into the air as if to say “I don’t know,” recalls her father, her mother began videotaping what appeared to be a cute mannerism. When Carson began banging her head on a toy, the Glen Arm, Md., couple called her pediatrician, who recommended they take her to the pediatric neurology clinic at Hopkins Children’s.
There, she was diagnosed with infantile spasms, a particularly severe form of pediatric epilepsy often associated with developmental problems. Her parents were given two options to prevent the increasingly debilitating seizures: put their infant daughter on injectable steroids or try the Ketogenic diet, an exquisitely regimented high fat, low carbohydrate diet managed in the John M. Freeman Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Hopkins Children’s. Although the diet is usually tried after seizures do not respond to medications, pediatric neurologist Eric Kossoff believed it would be worth trying first.
“Dr. Kossoff saw the potential for our little girl to be saved by this diet,” says Harris, vice president and director of trading at Campbell & Co., in Towson, Md. Kossoff, director of the Ketogenic Diet Center, made room for them in the intensive hospital-based program beginning that next day. “He really understood what was happening to her.”
Within three days on the diet, the child’s seizures – up to five clusters a day – stopped. She has had none since. With Carson now weaned off the diet and developing normally, the Harrises are raising money for their recently established Carson Harris Fund at Hopkins to support Kossoff and the epilepsy center. “We had an incredible result, and hope ultimately to help others like Carson have a normal life,” says Harris, who with his wife Gerry now volunteers in the diet training program for parents at Hopkins.
As for Kossoff, and his colleagues, he adds, “We’re simply repaying a favor.”