Radical brain surgery cures epileptic

Emma Kon: “Before the operation it was like I was living but not there”

Emma Kon: “Before the operation it was like I was living but not there”

A Jewish charity worker has had sections of her brain removed during a 12-hour operation to cure her of severe epilepsy.

Emma Kon, a member of Finchley Reform Synagogue, suffered from daily seizures that left her unable to work.

But since undergoing the radical surgery last year, she has gone months without a fit, allowing her to volunteer with Jewish Care and help Alzheimer’s and MS sufferers.

The 25-year-old, from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, contracted viral encephalitis at the age of 17 and was left in a coma for three weeks.

She said: “They told my parents I would not make it and they brought the rabbi in to say prayers. But I woke up the next morning.”

After recovering, Ms Kon was hit by regular, worsening seizures while studying at Birmingham University. She tried almost every anti-epilepsy drug available in Britain.

With doctors unable to identify where her epilepsy was being triggered, her family paid £7,000 for her to undergo more detailed scans in Brussels in October 2007.

Ms Kon said: “There was nowhere else to go. Brussels was all that was left. I had to sit in the hospital bed, very bored, waiting to have a fit. When I did, they took me straight down to theatre.”

Doctors discovered the seizures were coming from her right temple lobe and believed that the removal of seven sections could cure the epilepsy.

“I had always been desperate to have the surgery. It was a massive risk but I wanted to do everything in my power to try and get a better life,” she said.

During the first operation, in February last year, doctors inserted a metal grid in Ms Kon’s brain, allowing them to track exactly where the seizures were coming from. She said: “My head was still open when I was conscious again. It was very weird.

“I cried with joy when they said I could have the second operation.”

The final procedure, to remove the parts of the brain, carried enormous risks.

Doctors warned her she could die, be left paralysed or permanently brain-damaged.

“I had a three per cent chance of success — but the surgeon, my family and my boyfriend, knew how much I wanted it.

“Before the operations it was like I was living, but not really here. The Jewish community rallied round my parents and really helped.”

Ms Kon believes that the public does not know enough about epilepsy to consider it a worthy cause for donations.

She is now campaigning on behalf of the UCL Institute of Neurology at Queen Square Hospital, central London, in the hope it can afford a scanner similar to the one used to treat her in Brussels.

    Last updated: 12:06pm, June 25 2009