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

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

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.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …

  • EasterMiracle

    “And he never laughed again.”

  • daveca

    “Dr Rekate operated on Connor for 5 hours and removed his tumor, since that time Connor has been seizure free.”

    WOW. that is a major accomplishment.

    If we as a Nation would spend TRILLIONS on research and cures for things like this instead of warmongering for the UN, what a great world it would be!!

    Ron Paul 2012

  • Osamas Pajamas

    “”The Man Who Laughs,” by Victor Hugo….

  • Osamas Pajamas

    One of our Mexican neighbors had a little boy recently and named him Hilario. He’s a happy little kid and I hope he stays that way. Life is short. Be happy.

  • Osamas Pajamas

    Poor kid. All he was doing was reading my resume. No reason for him to go under the knife. Me, maybe — but not him.

  • Osamas Pajamas

    Poor kid. All he was doing was reading my reesume. No reason for him to go under the knife. Me, maybe — but not him.

    • Tom McLoughlin

      I hope you didn’t put Reesume on your Resume….

  • Mister Rocket Engine

    I was moved by the story until the mother says: “It took a villiage to get here…” and then I just wanted to throw up.

  • daveca

    Thats not a medical problem, the boy heard his first OBAMA SPEECH.


  • RC

    First article I’ve ever seen at CBS that didn’t use a stock image.

  • travis ainsworth

    what a beautiful story about matthew really makes you feel good that god does still perform MIRACLES

    • no miracle

      D’accor on that. Not a miracle. The wishful thinker is either an Evangelical on food stamps or an atheistic materialist. Come to think of it, the ethnicity of the subject explains how much the taxpayer is on the hook for the subject’s indulgences.

    • Pouteria

      Excuse me but this does not qualify as a miracle. The definition of a miracle is anything beyond human comprehension. This situation is fully comprehendible.

  • Joe Blough

    Don’t make me laugh!

  • bullrider

    Why didn’t they take him to Canada or Europe where their superior healthcare system would have solved the whole problem faster, better and cheaper? Oh yeah, because a) they would not have done this for him and b) if they would have, he could be waiting on a list for many months even for a preliminary scan.

    • daveca

      More Kool Aid for you. Youve not yet reached toxicity.

      Watch making comments like that or Obamas Health Care Police will bust your door down and take you for some Government sponsored -re-education.


    • bullrider

      By the way, I am very happy for this little boy and his family. As the father of a toddler I can imagine how hard it was on the parents.

  • Angie

    Our son had the same disorder with a Hypothalamic Hamartoma and it was removed by Dr. Rekate. He is amazing

  • mcw1142

    Easy fix – have the kid stop watching Obama’s speeches and the laughing should stop immediately.

    • bullrider

      That’s odd – when I see Obama on TV, laughter is the farthest thing from my mind. Instead I have an uncontrollable muscle spasm to grab the remote and change the channel, accompanied by the involuntary uttering of ‘Shut the **** up”.

      • Cam

        That happens to you too????

        • daveca

          When that f-tard comes on my TV it turns ITSELF OFF

      • faroglobal

        Absolutely, Bullrider, Absolutely

  • Lincoln Robertson

    That’s great! But it took a village? It took brilliant medical research and a skilled surgeon. The people involved with the cure did not get their education and training in a village. It took people with the self interest and ambition to become the best in their field.

    • diarrhea of the mouth, constipation of the brain

      It took a village is a saying. It means that took the collective effort of everyone to make it happen. She did not imply these wonderfully talented doctors came from a village. Village idiot would be what they call you, look that up.

      • daveca

        your screen name is fitting.

        I guess you were out the day in First Grade the rest of us learned the unit on “its not all about me?”


    I started to “lol” at this, until I saw how cute the kid is. :-(

  • artemis133

    It’s good to see positive news like this. Bless that little boy and his family.

    • Lincoln Robertson

      God bless the professionals!

  • Genevieve

    May God bless this little guy, and may he heal quickly.

  • LorieStories

    My daughter hit her head and soon after, started having seizures. She is now on Topamax and seizure free. May the Lord continue to bless you and your little boy and may that surgeon continue to practice a long time.

  • doc in NJ

    I’m sure you know that DI is not nearly as intrusive to your son’s ADLs as the brain hamartoma. You must have a good medical support team in place by now.

    He’s going to lead a long life – and when he decides to be a physician, tell him to practice geriatrics, because all of us doctors are getting old and need care ourselves! : )

  • Lisa Donahue

    Our 9 year old had transcollostal brain sugery with Dr Rekate in Aug. 2010. Ironically we live in New Jersey and the Dr Rekate was in Arizona. Connor had a large hamartoma and was having gelastic and partial complex seizures. Dr Rekate operated on Connor for 5 hours and removed his tumor, since that time Connor has been seizure free. He has been left with another rare disorder, diabetes insipidus, but overall he is doing wonderful. He is back in school, doing well. Dr Rekate is the kindest, most devoted surgeon and a true hero to the many families he has helped.

    • Leesa

      He seems like a great doctor.

      I hope Connor and Matthew continue to do well!

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