Give a Life Back: Hawaii Five-0 Actress Finds Hope at Barrow
Artist and actor Laura Mellow, who lives in Hawaii, began having seizures when she was just eight years old. By the time adolescence hit, she was having multiple seizures every day. For reasons unknown, Laura’s epilepsy went on hiatus from the time she was 23 years old until she was 31. When the electrical storms in her brain returned, Laura once again endured daily seizures.
Laura tried 20 medications. None worked. One physician told her she would never live a normal life and she could die of something known as SUDEP, or sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. She thought she would be disabled and require full time care.
The tide turned for Laura when her epileptologist, who trained at Barrow Neurological Institute years earlier, recommended a trip Phoenix to see Kris Smith, MD, a neurosurgeon at Barrow specializing in the surgical treatment of epilepsy.
Enter Gayle Kiyota, an Epilepsy Monitoring Program coordinator at Barrow. Gayle worked in neurophysiology at Barrow and helped schedule Laura’s surgery. As it turns out, Gayle worked at the very clinic in Honolulu where Laura was treated for epilepsy as a child. Gayle even administered some of Laura’s diagnostic tests.
Gayle’s team was instrumental in preparing Laura for the minimally invasive procedure designed to stop her seizures. After electrodes were inserted to pinpoint where in Laura’s brain the seizures originated, Dr. Smith performed a second surgery to remove a lump of scar tissue, the cause of which is unknown.
“From the moment I woke up from surgery,” says Laura, “I felt different. I have not suffered a seizure since.”
It has been 14 years.
“Dr. Smith gave me my life back,” says Laura. “I am able to drive again. I can windsurf and swim again, I couldn’t do that before.”
There’s one experience Laura is happy to leave behind.
“Right before I had a seizure, I would have this sense of foreboding, like my brain was telling me to get someplace safe,” says Laura. “That fear is no longer a part of my life.”
Art has been a big part of Laura’s life, and her journey with epilepsy parallels her artwork, much of which features ocean waves.
“There is magical power and life in the waves of the ocean,” says Laura. “Just like we don’t know where the waves originate, we don’t know what kinds of challenges we’ll face in life.”
Laura and Gayle have forged a special bond. The serendipitous meeting at Barrow led the two to stay in touch following Laura’s surgery in 2005.
Laura sings Barrow’s praises whenever she gets the chance saying, “Never in a million years did I think I would be living this life. Barrow and Dr. Smith gave my life back. I will be forever grateful.”