By Eric Johnson
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Vice President Joseph Biden on Tuesday tapped into his own medical history to lead a big fundraiser for researching a cure for epilepsy, which he called "a terrible lightning storm in the brain."
Biden and former White House colleague David Axelrod, whose daughter Lauren lives with epilepsy, headlined the event that raised about $800,000 for research. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn also attended.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder affecting more than 2 million Americans, including about 325,000 children under 15. It is characterized by seizures tied to abnormal electrical signals in the brain that have been traced to a variety of causes.
Speaking before 850 people in a downtown ballroom, Biden praised researchers in a "fight that will keep growing until finally we cure this horrible affliction."
Biden suffered an aneurysm that nearly killed him in 1988. He grappled with the effects of two seizures and seven months of hospitalization. His treatment included anti-seizure drugs, which Biden described as "numbing."
"It's amazing what we don't know about how the brain functions," Biden said. "For the first time in human history, significant resources and human capital are being applied to unlock how to catch that lightning."
Biden said a cure for epilepsy should also unlock secrets to treat autism, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
The event raised funds for Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, or CURE, an organization chaired by Susan Axelrod, wife of the former White House senior adviser.
"There is no lonelier feeling -- and many of you have experienced it -- when you know your child has a chronic illness which can't be controlled," said David Axelrod, who introduced Biden.
"That is how Susan and I felt hearing our baby crying out in terror in the middle of the night, before slipping into ... seizures."
(Editing by Peter Bohan)