INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – James Franklin Jr. is playing basketball with a new freedom this season.
Epilepsy is no longer a concern for the 17-year-old junior at Cathedral High School. He literally has much less on his mind now.
For the last several years, Franklin always worried about when the next seizure was coming.
"Very frustrating because I couldn't go places that I wanted to go and have fun with friends and cousins and stuff like that,” said Franklin. “I had to worry about school work, because it made me stress out."
James even had an epileptic seizure during a Cathedral basketball game last season.
"Seizures are very disruptive to a child's life because everything stops,” said Riley Hospital for Children neurosurgeon Dr. Jodi Smith. “Most the time, if they're at school, they get sent home from school, or worse yet, they go to the emergency department to try and get the seizures stopped. And it's embarrassing. When you're 16, 17 years old, and you're having seizures and you want to have a normal life, you'd like to have those seizures stopped."
Dr. Smith believed the seizures could be stopped, but that required major brain surgery to remove the damage done to the right side of his brain by a stroke at birth.
"Dead brain, all on this side," said Franklin, touching the top of his head on the right side.
In August, Dr. Smith removed a two by four by one inch deep portion of the teenager's brain where neurons were isolated that were causing the seizures.
“It's a pretty significant area of his brain,” said Dr. Smith, showing a photo of the surgery.
"I'm like, 'How did I survive without this right here?' It's like I didn't think that I was going to be here,” said Franklin, looking at the same photo of his brain with a large piece removed.
Franklin was back in school and back shooting baskets just two weeks after the surgery. After four weeks, Dr. Smith cleared him for full contact basketball. More importantly, James suffered no loss of motor skills, memory or intelligence post-surgery. And the seizures are gone.
"Just free, I'm living like a normal person now,” said Franklin.
"It's a great, wonderful joy,” said Franklin’s father, James Sr. “Not me just watching him if he may have a seizure, but now just to really watch him play as if when he was a child coming up playing."
Cathedral will celebrate James' successful recovery by wearing purple epilepsy awareness uniforms Saturday at the "Sink Seizures" game. Cathedral hosts Brebeuf at 7:30 p.m. Epilepsy information will be presented during the game. Purple T-shirts will be sold for $20. Tickets for the game are $5. A purple replica jersey will be raffled off during the game. The game is being supported by the Epilepsy Foundation of Indiana.
“Considering the size of the stroke that he had when he was an infant, it's amazing that he is even playing basketball,” said Dr. Smith, who will attend the game Saturday. “This kid's a miracle."
"I love basketball,” said Franklin, who hopes to play basketball in college. “I've been playing since I was six years old. I don't want to stop playing because it's the thing I love to do most out of all sports."
A long scar curves along the right side of his head as the only reminder of the mind-blowing procedure that set James free.
"I think the scar makes me look tough," said Franklin, who should be weaned off all seizure medication by February.