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Serpil’s story: Pregnant with epilepsy in a new country


Mehmet, Serpil and their babySerpil Karagoren-Sinlenmez has been living with epilepsy all her life. According to her neurologist and director of Tufts Medical Center’s Epilepsy Center, Joel Oster, MD, her seizures would lead to convulsions which were often life-threatening and hindered her ability to breathe. When she became pregnant, she knew she needed to find the perfect care team so she could safely deliver a happy, healthy baby.

Finding support at Tufts MC

Serpil and her husband, Mehmet, moved to Boston from Istanbul so he could continue his education at Northeastern University. While working in Boston as an overseas client relations specialist for her family’s business, Serpil learned she was pregnant. She was meticulous in her search for the right doctors and after meeting with physicians at other Boston-area hospitals, Serpil and Mehmet whole-heartedly decided on Tufts Medical Center.

Roosevelt Auguste is an International Patient Services CoordinatorSerpil points to our International Patient Services Coordinator, Roosevelt Auguste (pictured on left), as the reason she chose Tufts MC. “Having a direct touch-point and to be able to promptly reach my care team was so important when choosing Tufts MC for my care and delivery,” Serpil said.

International patients like Serpil are strongly supported by Roosevelt throughout their health care journeys, since they may not be familiar with the intricacies of health care in the US. Roosevelt sincerely cares about his patients and strives to make their experience with Tufts MC great. “I provide concierge for the patients before, during and after care” he said. “Serpil and Mehmet were the first very close patients I had. They still send me pictures and videos of the baby and even invited me to dinner when they were in Boston.”

Roosevelt said he once received what he called a “911 call” from Mehmet that Serpil had suffered from a seizure. “[Mehmet] didn’t know if he should call an ambulance because [Serpil] did not have health insurance, so he called me instead.” Coordinating financial arrangements is a huge part of Roosevelt's job, and he makes sure to maintain an open line of communication and build trust with his patients.

A family-centered team approach

Dr. Joel Oster is a neurologist and epilepsy specialist in Boston at Tufts Medical Center.

Serpil was referred to both the Neurology and Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) departments where she worked closely with Dr. Oster (pictured on left) and Ashley Peterson, MD. “Their coordination during my pregnancy and after the birth was so amazing,” noted Serpil. “I am grateful for their services as well as all the people who have helped me. They have become like our family in Boston.”

“Since Sepril’s seizures would often cause her to stop breathing, I was concerned that a progression to convulsions with possible respiratory compromise could cause a loss or lack of oxygen to the baby, or even a disruption of the placenta from the violent movements from convulsions could cause complications,” said Dr. Oster. “Our top priority was keeping her and the baby safe at all times.”

Dr. Oster worked closely with Dr. Peterson to make sure that Serpil was on the proper medication. “Our major concern was implementing a stable medicine regimen that would work for her,” said Dr. Peterson, “She had a long history of medications that she was intolerant to, or were simply ineffective, so finding the right combination took time and personal care. Our care is pretty seamless between departments.”

“What it boiled down to was really getting to know her,” said Dr. Oster. “It is very important to us here at Tufts that we have the ability to tailor-make all of our medical decisions to each patient as an individual.”

Thinking Ahead to delivery 

Serpil's babyDr. Peterson knew that Serpil was considered high-risk for a post-partum seizure. Thanks to her close work with Dr. Oster and the Epilepsy Center, they had a plan in place for when she eventually did seize after giving birth. “Everybody was prepared. I think that having a good team approach, with excellent communication among the nurses, resident staff and family, helped to optimally manage her pregnancy and postpartum complications,” Dr. Peterson said.

“Fortunately,” said Dr. Oster, “even with the risk to the baby, and the risk to her, both left the hospital happy and healthy.”

Heading home

After delivering the baby, Serpil and Mehmet moved back to Turkey. Their baby is happy and healthy, according to Serpil. “She is about 6 months now and growing very fast.”

Everything during the process was perfect,” said Serpil. “The attitude we got from Tufts Medical Center and the service provided to us was incomparable with the others. So I can say that starting from the first call with Mr. Roosevelt Auguste, to the day we were discharged with our baby, everything went perfectly.”

Mehmet, Serpil and their baby