Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry speak to Ross Mathews in 2002
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The star – who has gone on to have success on sitcom Episodes, from 2011 to 2017, where he played a fictionalised version of himself, before briefly hosting BBCs Top Gear from 2016 to 2019 – was delighted to welcome his first daughter with his now ex-wife Melissa McKnight. But at the age of 11 months, Marina was diagnosed with cortical dysplasia, which develops as a result of brain cells, or neurons, failing to reach the parts of the brain for which they are genetically destined. The condition is one of the most common causes of seizures and conditions such as epilepsy.
Upon learning about his daughter’s condition, LeBlanc became inconsolable, admitting in an interview with The Telegraph that for years he barely left the house.
“My daughter was diagnosed with a problem with her head. It was a very dark period,” LeBlanc acknowledged.
“For years and years, I barely left the house. I was burnt out.
“Most actors call their agents and say, ‘What’s going on?’ I’d call mine and say, ‘Please lose my number for a few years.’
“It was a very dark time. I almost had a nervous breakdown.”
At the time, LeBlanc was at the height of his career, but he decided to stay away from the spotlight in order to prioritise his young daughter’s health.
“I didn’t feel like being funny. I had a lot going on in my personal life,” he continued to say.
“I knew I wasn’t missing out on anything. I had dabbled with the celebrity world.
“I’d partied a bit. But there wasn’t anything there that could fulfil me. I mean, I have beers in the fridge at home.”
It seemed that staying strong and supporting his daughter was the right decision, as Marina luckily grew out of the condition as she got older.
The actor added: “I got through it. Don’t they say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?”
The medical website Children’s Health explains that the main symptom of cortical dysplasia is seizures, which can be difficult to control.
The two distinctive types of seizures that most often occur include:
- Tonic-clonic seizure: this type of seizure can involve shaking (called convulsions) combined with the body getting rigid, clenching of the jaw, and biting the tongue.
- Absence seizure: this type of seizure may involve staring into space, or a child may stop talking abruptly and then start talking again. Repetitive movements like chewing their lips or moving a hand are also common.
In some cases, children may also experience an aura, which results in the individual smelling something that isn’t there or feeling a numbing or tingling sensations.
The health website recommends that if you find your child having a seizure, parents need to ensure they cannot fall out of, or off, anything and put a pillow under their heads. Individuals can turn their head to the side, but be sure to never put anything in or near their mouths.
Also be careful not to shake or shout at the child and call 999 if the seizure seems to last for five minutes or longer. After a seizure, it is common for a child to be confused, foggy or to feel tired.
Similarly to cortical dysplasia, epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain causing frequent seizures. But unlike dysplasia, epilepsy is usually a lifelong condition. Most people are able to have normal lives if their seizures are well controlled.
Treatment for both cortical dysplasia and epilepsy is focused on controlling seizures as untreated epilepsy can increase your child’s risk of serious injury.
Anti-epileptic medication, also known as (AEDs) can be used to help individuals lead a normal life, but for children with cortical dysplasia, sometimes medication does not control seizures.
If this is the case, surgery may be used to remove the section of the brain where seizures originate. Surgeons will implant a small device that regulates electronic brain activity and aims to control seizures. However, this procedure is usually reserved for individuals diagnosed with epilepsy.
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