With an upbeat, curious and thoughtful attitude, Benjamin Piette describes his experience with epilepsy, a neurological disorder that causes seizures similar to “short circuits” in the brain.
After being diagnosed in his early teens, Benjamin was initially followed at a children’s hospital in the Montreal area. Just a few years later, he was referred to The Neuro under the care of Dr. François Dubeau, Dr. André Olivier and Dr. Eliane Kobayashi, who are part of its epilepsy research group. Coincidentally, Dr. Olivier went to the same high school as Benjamin, who loves academics and had always dreamed of becoming a biochemist.
Since its inception, The Neuro has been on the cutting edge of the treatment and study of epilepsy thanks in part to of Dr. Wilder Penfield’s pioneering work in the 1940s and 1950s and the development of the “Montreal Method.”
“As soon as I was referred here, they immediately got to work to help me,” says Benjamin. The Neuro team adapted to his routine and scheduled his appointments after the school day and during school breaks so that he wouldn’t miss class time and could keep up with his studies.
“The care team was very involved in my case,” says Benjamin. “They focus deeply on care and follow-up throughout the entire process. They really apply the patient-partner concept and make sure patients get the right treatment throughout their entire health pathway. This high level of involvement is so important.”
Benjamin’s health really started to improve after his second surgery. His mother, Claudine Lambert, describes how her son, after his nine-hour operation, was discharged from hospital at 7:00 a.m. the next morning and was already going on walks just a few days later. He had very few effects from the surgery and was able to return to school in person.
“The Neuro was very accommodating of Benjamin’s needs. Dr. Olivier told us that people recover faster when you tailor their care to their lifestyle,” recalls Benjamin’s mother.
After this second operation, Benjamin’s epileptic seizures stopped. It then took him just over four years to come off his medication. Now, six years later, he doesn’t take any medication at all. He currently sees his neurologists for a check-up every two years to get his driver’s licence renewed.
"I never gave up," he says. "I never gave into the idea that my illness, epilepsy, would stop me from doing what I wanted."
Epilepsy didn’t prevent Benjamin from realizing his career goals. After getting a degree in biochemistry from the Université de Montréal, he received his PhD in molecular genetics from the University of Toronto in spring 2021 and published an article in the prestigious journal Molecular Cell. Benjamin also stayed connected with The Neuro and conferred with doctors at the institution for his doctoral dissertation. Benjamin’s mother proudly remembers how Dr. Dubeau congratulated Benjamin when he received his degree.