Melanie Griffith has epilepsy and it took 20 years for her to get diagnosed

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Melanie Griffith participated in a brain health initiative panel in Beverly Hills last week. As People Magazine reports, the event was moderated by Sharon Stone, who suffered from a stroke in 2001. (Sharon has since become an advocate for stroke awareness. She spent two years learning to speak, read and talk after that and considers herself lucky to have her vocabulary back.) Melanie revealed that she’d been having seizures for 20 years, specifically in times of stress, but that she didn’t receive a diagnosis until she was in Cannes in 2011 and had two seizures in succession. She later learned through genetic testing that her condition was caused by stress. Thankfully she’s been seizure free for four years now. Griffith made some insightful comments about how long she waited for a diagnosis and how frustrating and impossible medical conditions can be for people without her means.

[Melanie Griffith] revealed she had been diagnosed with epilepsy six years ago during a Women’s Brain Health Initiative panel Wednesday night in Beverly Hills, California. The panel was moderated by actress Sharon Stone, who suffered a stroke in 2001.

Griffith was diagnosed after she had two seizures, which occurred on a yacht outside of Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival in 2011.

She continued, “When I came back [to the U.S.], I was diagnosed with epilepsy and nobody had said to me over a period of 20 years, no one paid enough attention to even diagnose me.”

The three-time Golden Globe nominee said she began to have fewer incidents after her divorce to actor Antonio Banderas, to whom she had been married to for 18 years.

“I was extremely stressed out,” she said. “Every seizure that I had was at a point when I was extremely stressed.”

“I got divorced, which is a real healer for me,” she joked, earning laughter from her audience.

She said that despite her health troubles she still feels grateful she was able to access the best health care. Griffith revealed she had recently visited the Health Nucleus facility in San Diego, California, for genome testing to see if she still had epilepsy. The results turned up negative.

“They did all the tests on my brain,” she said. “They couldn’t find the epilepsy; they couldn’t find anything wrong. It’s pretty much that it was stress. My brain is f—– up. Really — you know? I thank God that I’m in a position where I was able to, like, find out where I could go to that’s the newest high tech place to find out the most information that I possibly can.”

She continued, “If I was living in poverty with four kids, and I couldn’t make ends meet and I had a f—— seizure, what do you do?” she asked. “How does the average person, man or woman, get the help?”

[From People]

I often think of how Catherine Zeta-Jones blasted her husband Michael Douglas’s doctors for not finding a walnut sized tumor under his tongue for weeks to months (the time window is unclear) after he he sought help for throat and ear pain. If the (presumably) best doctors in New York City can’t find a visible tumor on one of the world’s biggest celebrities, what chance do the rest of us have? I’m thinking of those of us who have health insurance, hoping it will protect us from bankruptcy in the event of a medical emergency or chronic condition. We still have to find a doctor who is skilled enough to listen, order the right tests and provide a diagnosis without dismissing our symptoms. There are so many people who rely on the ACA to meet their basic medical needs as Griffith alluded to. If the creeps in power have their way that minimal protection is about to be stripped away. If that happens, people will suffer and die from treatable medical conditions. The men pushing to dismantle that either don’t understand the consequences or are so heartless they don’t care.

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25 Responses to “Melanie Griffith has epilepsy and it took 20 years for her to get diagnosed”

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  1. Esmom says:

    She looks completely different in every photo, wow. But good for her for persisting and finding the cause and treatment for her seizures. Seizure disorders can be very hard to control. I am so lucky to have a doctor who is patient and thorough and errs on the side of testing and re-testing when anything seems abnormal. As are my kiddos. In fact my younger one’s Type 1 diabetes was caught in a routine lab test at his annual physical. But I feel like they — as they get nearer and nearer to their 26th birthdays — are on the verge of having no access to affordable care and it terrifies me.

    • denisemich says:

      Melanie Griffith looks very different without bangs.

      I think Celebrities get the worst care because doctors are people too and get caught up in the celebrity. Look at what happened to Joan Rivers.

      Affordable care allows you to see a doctor continuously and not go bankrupt. We have yet to figure out how to make that work in America. Let’s hope we get rid of this horrible white house staff prior to them ruining the foundations for truly effective affordable care.

  2. Vv says:

    Honestly public healthcare is terrible anywhere. My mom lives in Israel where public healthcare is actually the norm and everybody has access to decent medical care for very low cost. the problem is when you have a bigger issue.
    a few years ago it took 2 MONTHS and 3 “specialists” to diagnose my mom with severe sinusitis because the CT she needed wasn’t available because of endless waiting lists. finally one doc sent her to ER because he thought she had cancer and ordered an urgent CT. it finally came and the throat and nose intern we woke up at 3am at the hospital was very unimpressed we woke him for a basic sinusitis even if it was advanced.
    we were just relieved it wasn’t the big c…

  3. Beth says:

    Seizures have been an uncontrolable everyday thing for me in the past 23 years, but the stress of Trump, maybe losing insurance, and now Irma, have made it worse. If she kept on having seizures for 20 years, she should have gone to every doctor out there until they could give her an answer of exactly why they were happening. Seizures can cause death, and she’s lucky she was diagnosed before it was too late

    • HeidiM says:

      Depends on the nature of the seizures she was having. Some people have absent seizures and they can be hardly noticeable to even the person having them. And also add to it that she has a complex history with addiction to alcohol. Perhaps some things were missed when she was off the wagon?

  4. Des says:

    Isn’t she also in recovery for some kind of addiction? i can only imagine the effect of that kind of stuff on her condition. I’m glad she got the help she needed.

  5. CharlieBouquet says:

    I have SRSD as well. Spent days in a seizure study center to get diagnosed. It sucks. No baths alone, hubby on speed dial so our son can call if I am knocked out. It’s life altering.

    • Beth says:

      My life would be completely different if I didn’t have this problem or at least found a perscription that worked. Never ever being allowed to drive or able to work has been incredibly life altering

      • Whitney says:

        I also have epilepsy. I am always in a state of fear that I will seize – especially because I have 2 small children (4 and 1). Stress and lack of sleep are my triggers. I couldn’t drive for 6 months last year due to 3 seizures back to back. I am thinking of quitting work as a way to get more rest. It sucks.

        Nice to know that I am not alone though!

  6. Ann says:

    I have epilepsy and it took 2 doctors to diagnose me. I thought I was having seizures so I asked the first internal medicine provider I ever saw as an adult in my early 20s about it and she was a total bitch because I (correctly) diagnose myself. Thank goodness I got a second opinion and found a doctor who believed me. This was over 10 years ago and even though it’s not that long ago the healthcare situation then was so much better than it is now. I couldn’t afford to pursue a diagnosis now like I was able to then. It’s scary to think about.

  7. Who ARE These People? says:

    The one thing I’m confused about is “genome” testing vs “brain” testing. If they found a genetic marker for her form of epilepsy, wouldn’t it be there regardless of her signs and symptoms? And if her brain patterns (electrophysiological,right?) normalized, that’s a separate thing?

    I wonder if she takes anti-seizure medication as well, and also about any interaction between her former drug abuse and her vulnerable nervous system.

    Some things lately have made me think that seizure disorders, especially the milder type, are under diagnosed so I hope that she can be someone who can be clearer in her ability to help to educate the larger public.

    Also, if the lady sitting next to her is that uncomfortable wearing such a short dress, she shouldn’t have worn such a short dress.

    • Arpeggi says:

      You are right!

      You can test for genetic markers that can show that you are more likely to have seizures, but you can’t get “cured” of genetic markers, that’s not how genetics work! And you can look at brain activity but that has nothing to do with genome studies. That Health Nucleus thing seems very expensive, but I’m not sure how “legit” it is (didn’t have time to do more than a quick google search, but I heavily side-eye anything that mixes genome-wide sequencing and medicine, we’re so not there yet!). And that can be part of the issue when it comes to privatized medicine: you might have lots of money but you might also go see expensive quack doctors (exhibit A: GOOP) that won’t give you a proper diagnosis

      Epilepsy is a condition that doesn’t suddenly go away, but seizures can be controlled and other conditions (years of substance abuse, for instance) can lead to seizures even if you don’t suffer from epilepsy.

  8. teehee says:

    I am not surprised. The medical community or the practice of modern medicine is really not doing great.
    I mean, we have standards, theories, medications, billions in turnaround— but, as a whole, the state of current modern medicine is just symptom-treatment and not real healing and also the diagnostics are really failing when it comes to neurological conditions (including psychological)-
    So when you consider the impact that neurology has on ALL the functions of the bod, modern medicine then actually sucks. There is a major omission in terms of overall physiological health. And even if it were covered, I doubt the treatments would be healing based. More like cover up based, as usual. Which leads to growing illness beneath the surface.

  9. Peggy says:

    Wonder if Antonio said the stress of dealing with Melanie brought on his heart attack if people would be laughing.
    Years of abusing drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and plastic surgery, takes a toll on the human body.

  10. CharlieBouquet says:

    Stress seizures look like epilepsy but they do not scramble the brainwaves. I was horrified at first and asked if it meant I was crazy. The multiple doctors and therapists at the study compare it to a shaken soda bottle. Due to childhood sexual abuse, the mental weight it brings takes up most of my stress management, leaving me little wiggle room for additional stress. So like a soda under pressure, when I get stressed I burst in the form of a seizure. There is no medication for that, they did the study because I was having seizures while on heavy seizure meds. Some people spend their lives on epilepsy meds not knowing they are not Neuro based. So glad they discovered my root cause.
    My husband has asked that I stop reading about Weinstein because I have had multiple seizures the last two weeks and we can’t afford for him to miss work.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      So sorry you and all the seizure disorder people commenting here are going through this. It must be terrifying, topped by the fury and frustration of not being properly diagnosed or treated, and overtopped by knowing that life stresses beyond your control have contributed.

      Neurological/brain health should be on every middle-school and high-school curriculum.

    • Coolio says:

      That’s what happened to my husband!! It was terrifying!! He was in the midst of a complete breakdown down and the seizures were warning signs. I had no idea stress could present itself that way. He ended up having to go to an inpatient treatment for stress and anxiety. It’s what finally helped him. The biggest help was a procedure where they hooked him up to a machine and helped him make new nuero passages in his brain to cope with the trama he experienced. It changed his thinking so that when he remembers the trauma the negative emotions are gone. The memories are still there but the pain is not. It is amazing. It saved his life and our family. He did the work and was ready to face it. It was the worst time in our lives but we got through it. I recommend it if you suffer from anxiety. I wish you and all who suffer, hope and strength. Xoxo

  11. Amy says:

    My epilepsy was misdiagnosed for 15+ years as a panic disorder and a million other things. Back when I used to drink, it was much worse if I was hungover. It lowers the seizure threshold. I also think the panicky, pre-seizure feeling can lead you to want to self-medicate, so her history with alcohol might be all tied into this. One affects the other like a vicious cycle. She will feel much better now that she’s diagnosed and has an answer/proper medication. I feel for her.

  12. Jill says:

    My middle kid has epilepsy and it took 4 doctors before he got a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had two doctors tell me it was “behavioral” because they couldn’t induce a seizure with 60 seconds of having him hyperventilate. I kept pushing because I do know someone who died from a seizure. We have so much more to learn about the brain.

  13. CharlieBouquet says:

    It was so weird of an experience. You are on room quarantine monitored by video 24/7 except in bathroom. Your head is wired with a zillion electrodes to read the brain, so you have wires everywhere with a monitor and cords you have to hold in one hand to toilet.
    So they see you have the seizure but the wires prove the brain patterns aren’t budging. After a true epileptic seizure the brainwaves can read normal with 5 minutes, so unless you are charted at that time, who knows.
    Sorry for the multiple posts, I have never read about a celebrity with this.

  14. Nancypants says:

    I’m just going to add this info in the hope that it helps someone.

    You know I’m retired military. I never did weed/pot/ganga whatever.
    I was tested for drugs regularly.
    I didn’t believe in it – and like the Governor – I wasn’t thrilled when my current state made it legal. I’ve changed my mind A LITTLE.

    Now, I’ve been struggling with alcoholism for about the past year. There it is.
    It caught up with me.
    I’ve been through an expensive program and have been prescribed narcotics for withdrawal that never helped.
    If you don’t know, withdrawal can be dangerous.
    For me, it was just like having the stomach flu for days and nights but still miserable.

    A few weeks ago, I visited a weed store for the first time.
    I bought the sour gummies. I thought they might help with nightmares and getting back to sleep.

    Medicinal purposes only. I have too much to do to be a stoner but when I decided to go back on the wagon, I was going into withdrawal and it wasn’t getting better.

    I remembered that chemo patients had used pot for decades to help with vomiting and nausea and decided to give it a try.

    One gummie, one night…no more withdrawal, no more alcohol. Done.

    I’ve heard it will help with seizures and serious ADD as well but I don’t know.

    I don’t think you should smoke it. I don’t care if it’s, “organic”. Forest fire smoke is organic too and it will still kill you.
    I think it should be eaten.

    I wish ONE doctor or counselor would have said, “Have you considered an edible?” but that would not have been in their best interests.

    • Ladidah says:

      Interesting, thank you! I know many on cb use edibles and vapeing for insomnia, interesting it helps with alcohol substance disorder as well.

  15. Overit says:

    Melanie had drug addiction problems for decades , her seizures may have been dismissed by friends , family and doctors as side effects of her drug use. I can imagine that most times she wasn’t even taken to a doctor because of the publicity . An unfortunate catch 22 situation that may have prevented her diagnosis for years.

  16. Annetommy says:

    I was diagnosed with late onset partial complex epilepsy when I was over 40. It took a couple of years for me to do anything about it, I was attributing the symptoms to stress, and it’s anyhow less “dramatic” than grand mal seizures. I then had a seizure (episode as I call it) right in front of one of the med school profs who was working in the area of epilepsy, who recognised it. After a few false starts with medication that didn’t agree with me, I was given ones that did, and have been seizure free for around 15 years, and don’t even think of it much. Four tablets a day and I’m good (fingers crossed). There are some great medications out there these days and I send my best to anyone struggling with the condition that they find those that suit them.

  17. Psu Doh Nihm says:

    I used to take Topamax for migraines but quit after I had several grande-mal “breakthrough seizures”. Apparently, if you have a brainwaves that are susceptible to seizures, when you miss or are late on the dose, it can induce a seizure.

    Just my friendly public service announcement for the day.