Parkwood Inn fundraiser set for Southwest Greensburg woman suffering epileptic seizures
Shelby LaBar‘s daily routine requires her to take a cocktail mix of medications to try to prevent epileptic seizures that have altered her life since she began having them last May.
The 27-year-old Southwest Greensburg woman takes 18 pills from at least five different medications in what has become an unsuccessful attempt to control the seizures. She has experienced 11 this month. Some were as minor as causing her fingers to twitch uncontrollably.
“It’s a day-by-day battle,” LaBar said.
Loss of appetite and extreme tiredness are some of the side effects of the medication and seizures.
LaBar is not unusual in being unable to control seizures with medication. That happens to 40 percent of epilepsy patients, said Dr. Joanna Fong-Isariyawongse, an epileptologist at the UPMC Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in Pittsburgh.
Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Her brain has been scarred from the seizures and that has damaged her short-term memory, said LaBar, who graduated in 2015 from California University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
LaBar underwent evaluation and a barrage of tests at the UPMC epilepsy center in December. She was found not to be a candidate for surgery.
“My seizures start from so many different sides of the brain that they did not want to do surgery,” LaBar said.
She has to have the seizures under control before undergoing surgery, which may involve removing the parts of her brain that are causing the seizures.
“You have to consider the quality of life,” as well as the long-term effects of the anti-seizure medication, when considering brain surgery, a procedure conducted about 100 times at UPMC last year, Fong-Isariyawongse said.
LaBar anticipates returning to the epilepsy center next month for another round of tests that can involve placing electrodes on the brain to determine the affected area, Fong-Isariyawongse said. She plans to go back home to Pen Argyl, a small town north of Allentown, to be with her family while awaiting the tests.
While dealing with the seizures and testing, she has been working part-time at the Parkwood Inn Restaurant in Southwest Greensburg. She started there last summer, but her health problems forced her into a part-time schedule.
She lost health insurance coverage for two months when her mother lost her job. Some of her medication cost more than $800. She said she is in the process of regaining coverage.
Co-workers at Parkwood Inn have rallied to her aid and are holding a fundraiser at the neighborhood tavern from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday.
”We decided to help her out about a month or so ago,” said Susan Pierce, a waitress and bartender who has worked at the Parkwood off and on for about 11 years. “We want to raise money to help her so she can focus on her health and do what she needs to do to get better.”
The event is billed as a “Bartender Showdown for Shelby” with former bartenders in Greensburg-area taverns dividing into three teams, donating their time in three one-hour slots. All tips that evening will go toward helping LaBar pay for costs related to her treatment.
Chris Dinkel, formerly with Spitfire and The Headkeeper, is teaming with Nichole Waugaman Slavin, formerly of Zo-Zo’s, from 6 to 7 p.m. Cara Palmiere, formerly of Mr. Toad’s and The Headkeeper, will join Jeff Palmiere, from the Rialto Cafe, from 7 to 8 p.m. For the last hour, Randy Falkosky, formerly of Red Star and The Headkeeper, will join forces with Lindsay Leonard, who used to work at the Parkwood.
“We brought them (bartenders) out of retirement. They have a following. They’ll get their friends and families to come down” for a good cause, Pierce said.
In addition to tips, money will be raised through a raffle, the sale of about 25 gift baskets and gelatin shots.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .