Daring to remove part of the brain, and have that person left able to talk, walk, think and move like they did before, is almost unthinkable.
But for more than 70,000 Australians who can’t control epileptic seizures with medication — about 40 per cent of patients — resecting part of the brain where the seizures begin is the last resort.
After four years of nightly seizures, 18-year-old Rachel Vella reached that point.
Brain surgery was her last hope of a life in which she could drive a car, sleep at a friend’s house, stay out late like other teenagers and live independently as an adult.
What doctors from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and Austin Hospital planned to do in Rachel’s brain would not have been possible five years ago.
The imaging technology was such that they could not have seen the focal spot from where seizures sparked.
Even 18 months ago, the closest neurologists could have got to pinpointing the hot spot of seizure activity was a tennis ball-sized shape.