Teresa Heinz Kerry's seizures may have been caused by 2009 concussion

Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Secretary of State John Kerry, listens to her husband speak during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on Sept. 3, 2013 in Washington. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH The seizures that Teresa Heinz Kerry suffered from in early July may have been due to a concussion she had in 2009, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

She says the doctors have told her she's made a "miraculous" recovery.

The ketchup heiress and wife of Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when she returned to Pittsburgh on Friday for board meetings at the Heinz Endowments, the family's $1.4 billion charitable foundation.

Kerry's July 7 seizure at her family home in Nantucket, Mass., wasn't related to her past treatments for breast cancer, but was the result of her brain continuing to repair itself after "a bad concussion that was not properly treated at all... from a very bad fall" four years ago, she said.

Seizures can occur years after severe head injuries, and it may take months for a person to recover from a concussion.

Doctors told her that new circuits formed by the brain during such healing can become overloaded and cause seizures.

"I have a great feeling of gratitude in my heart that my brain is still working," the 75-year-old said, adding she's "in the 97th percentile for my age group in terms of analytical function."

Kerry was hospitalized due to the incident, but was transferred to a rehabilitation facility just a few days later. At that time, heart attack, stroke and brain tumors were ruled out as seizure causes.

Kerry's seizure affected her balance and ability to focus mentally, but she's having physical therapy three times a week and doing brain "exercises" using a program called Lumosity, a product advertised on television that stimulates the brain through computer games.

She's considering developing a health conference in Pittsburgh where she hopes to teach others about brain injuries by recounting her experiences with the seizure and recovery.

The conference would be "not just about the brain but all the new research, games, therapies and all the possibilities that the brain will allow us to do for our children, our families and ourselves." She's hoping the result will be more understanding of brain injuries, allowing for a "kinder world" and less fear of such injuries.

One misconception is that people with brain injuries can appear to be physically fine when they're still recovering, she said.

"They think if you look good, you're fine, you're great. You're actually thinking clearer, but not for long," Kerry said, adding that she's able to focus "much longer now, but for the beginning, maybe for 30 minutes and then, whoosh, the brain gets tired."

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