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Inspiring Story of a Mother's Determination

Driven by the need to understand her daughter’s sudden seizures, Tracy Dixon-Salazar went back to school to earn a doctorate in neurobiology. “I just wanted to understand what was going on with my child. I didn’t go into this thinking I was ever going to help her,” she says. “That was a surprise to me.”


Savannah Dixon-Salazar, aged 2
Savannah | Credit: Tracy Dixon-Salazar

One day, Tracy Dixon-Salazar’s 2 year old daughter, Savannah, suddenly appeared to be choking. Panicked, the family called 911 and paramedics informed them that Savannah had a seizure. “Both my husband and I went at the same time, ‘What’s a seizure?’” recalls Dixon-Salazar from San Diego. “We actually went six months and she didn’t have any and then at the age of 3 they came back hard and fast. She started having hundreds of seizures a day.”


At the time, doctors hesitated to call them seizures and instead referred to them “episodes” or “spells.” Dixon-Salazar later learned Savannah had epilepsy, but doctors didn’t want to diagnose her with it because they feared stigmatizing her.


Frustrated with trying to comprehend why Savannah went from a seemingly healthy child to having intense and frequent seizures, Dixon-Salazar returned to school. Over 12 years, she earned an associate, bachelor and master’s degree before getting her Ph.D. in neurobiology and finishing a three-year post-doctoral program.


Her new found knowledge led her to discovering a mechanism that, in part, explains why Savannah, now 30, experienced her seizures. Equally remarkably, this dedicated and determined mother also discovered a treatment that reduces the number of seizures that her daughter has.


“I just wanted to understand what was going on with my child. I didn’t go into this thinking I was ever going to help her,” she says. “That was a surprise to me.”

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