Meet the patients: Paul Halliwell
For more than 20 years, Paul Halliwell suffered with nocturnal seizures and daytime episodes, caused by epilepsy. He had to change his job and lost his driving licence and independence.
Now, following surgery to remove part of his brain, he is seizure free and has finally got his driving licence back.
Paul, from Rownhams, Southampton, had his first seizure in the early 1980s, while living and working in South Korea.
As a ship surveyor, he spent much of his day climbing around in high places, but after his diagnosis he had to change to office duties. He eventually moved back to the UK to work.
Although Paul was reluctant to believe he had a problem, he had to give up driving. He said: “Losing my licence wasn’t just inconvenient, it was very personal. My social circle began to shrink once I stopped driving, and this had a psychological effect on me. It also meant I missed out on things like taking my two sons to football and teaching them to drive.
“When things were going well I was counting the days until the end of a year, when I could drive again, but then I would have another fit and the clock would start again. It was a huge setback.”
Southampton is one of only a handful of hospitals in the country that offers a comprehensive service for adults and children with epilepsy, including the option of surgery.
After a close friend and colleague of Paul’s had successful epilepsy surgery at the Wessex Neurological Centre in Southampton, he decided to make another appointment to see his consultant.
An MRI scan revealed a shadow on his brain that could be the cause of his seizures, so the next step was to carry out a range of tests to make sure that this was the source of Paul’s problems. This included testing his memory function, to check which part of the brain was damaged.
Paul had nine months of tests and hospital appointments before he was put on the waiting list for surgery. He said: “I was over the moon. The benefits outweighed the risks, I was so positive about my decision to go ahead. It was a life changing decision.”
The operation went ahead in November 2006. Surgeon Professor William Gray said: “After a detailed and comprehensive work-up by the whole of the epilepsy surgery team, we decided to offer Paul surgery in order to try and cure his epilepsy. We performed an operation called a selective amygdalohippocampectomy, which is a keyhole surgery technique to remove the damaged area, deep in Paul’s brain. He spent about five hours in theatre before being moved to the neuro intensive care unit, for the initial stage of his recovery.”
At first Paul slept a lot, with what he describes as “the mother of all headaches”, but this quickly settled and he made a rapid and full recovery, before returning home, just a week after his surgery.
He said: “After a while I felt like a million dollars. I used to walk to all my hospital appointments, and then started riding a bike. I felt more alert than I had before, because the seizures would have been making me tired. After three months I returned to work.”
Since the operation, Paul has reduced his medication from three tablets to one, and has not had any seizures. In 2008 Paul got his driving licence back, and embarked on a new adventure, making aeroplane wings in Malaysia.
This story was first published in Connect magazine