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Overwhelmed By Uncontrollable Laughter, Little Boy Undergoes Risky, Complex Surgery

Matthew Ephrem Used To Struggle With Hundreds Of Giggling Spasms A Day
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Matthew Ephrem

Matthew Ephrem (Photo: CBS 2)

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MANHASSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Imagine having uncontrollable laughter that seems to never end. It’s a one-in-a-million disorder that’s so rare, up until very recently a cure was hopeless.

But on Friday, a lovable little boy was recovering following risky surgery on Long Island, reports CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

McLogan saw video of Matthew Ephrem in the midst of one of his countless laughing seizures. The spontaneous and uncontrollable giggling spasms would overtake his body hundreds of times a day, leaving the 2 ½-year-old confused and disoriented, and his parents helpless and hopeless.

“It’s heartbreaking. I mean heartbreaking to find out your child has a tumor,” said Tigist Feyisa, Matthew’s mother.

The brain lesion creating the laughing fit is called hypothalamic hamartoma, and the nation’s leading authority is a neurosurgeon at North Shore University Hospital.

“It’s hard to imagine he could have done better. The surgery went beautifully,” Dr. Harold Rekate said.

Following two complex and extremely risky operations to remove nerve masses through the top of Matthew’s head, his laughter and spasms stopped. He was eating and drinking, and even saying new words.

“It took a village to get here and a lot of prayers,” Feyisa said.

Matthew and his grateful parents flew to Long Island from St. Paul, Minn.

“There is no word to explain how happy we are with result. Since he had the surgery almost 10 days … no seizure, no laughing, and he is becoming himself,” father Ephrem Mekonnen said.

“It’s early. I realize he has a long life to go through, but he has a lot of hope. It’s a blessing to be involved in this,” Dr. Rekate said.

Matthew will stay in the hospital another week under observation. His parents are living at the Ronald McDonald House. For them, they are calling the surgery the greatest Easter gift of all time.

Matthew’s parents said they struggled for two years to find anyone in their hometown to diagnose their son.

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