Helen with her family
Mother-of-two Helen Hollis underwent the high-risk brain operation after suffering 40 epileptic fits a day. Surgeons removed part of her right temporal lobe – the source of the epilepsy – and an area of the brain which encodes new information and is vital for memory.
She was in the second year of her university degree course. The operation was a success and just months later she was able to resume her studies.
Ms Hollis, who is a National Society of Epilepsy volunteer, said: “I am looking forward to having the photograph of my graduation on the mantelpiece to remind me of what I have achieved.
“It will be without doubt one of the proudest moments of my life and I was determined never to give up and give in to epilepsy."
Mr Andrew McEvoy, consultant neurosurgeon at the NHNN treated Helen.
Because of the severity of her epilepsy she underwent state-of-the-art investigation at the NHNN and National Society for Epilepsy in Chalfont. This identified an abnormality in her right temporal lobe responsible for her epilepsy.
Mr McEvoy said: “After much reflection and discussion Helen underwent a six hour operation to try to remove the source of her seizures.
"It is fantastic that her bravery in choosing to undergo major brain surgery has led to such fantastic personal achievement and I hope will encourage other patients with epilepsy of the outcomes possible with modern neurosurgery. We all wish Helen well with her ongoing studies and career."
Helen graduated from the University of Derby with a first class honours degree in psychology and counselling studies.
She was unable to continue her job as a staff nurse in the intensive care unit at King's Mill Hospital in Mansfield after her epileptic attacks became more debilitating in 2002.
The UCLH epilepsy surgery programme is run at the NHNN and at the Chalfont Centre for Epilepsy, with the charity the Epilepsy Society .
This is the largest epilepsy surgery programme in the UK and individuals are referred from all parts of the UK and Ireland. In general, those who are suitable have a 60-670% chance of their seizures being stopped by the surgery, and a further 15% chance of a great improvement. Every individual has to be considered separately and the potential benefits and risks very carefully weighed up.
Helen now suffers around one epilepsy attack a year but the attacks are still powerful and in April 2010 she had to have an overnight stay in a local hospital to stabilise her.