Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Rugby legend to go through surgery to control seizures

RUGBY league legend Wally Lewis will have a delicate four-hour neurosurgical operation in a Melbourne hospital in an attempt to control his epilepsy.

The operation, to be performed by Associate Professor Gavin Fabinyi, is due to begin in the Austin Hospital about 2pm. During the operation, Prof Fabinyi plans to remove a 5cm long and 3cm deep slice from Lewis's brain. Lewis, 47, has spent eight days at the hospital wired to monitors and having seizures induced to see whether the last-resort surgery is possible and if it might work.

He has been under the care of neurologist Professor Sam Berkovic since late last year when he began having problems presenting the evening sports report on Channel Nine in Brisbane. The first indication came during the November 16, 2006, 6pm news broadcast where Lewis previewed the sports segment, but was not onscreen when the program returned from an ad break. A similar event occurred on November 30, when Lewis appeared onscreen and began to read the autocue, saying "Good evening" before seeming distressed.

Following those incidents, Lewis was given medical leave for the rest of the year and on December 1, he revealed that he suffered epilepsy. His wife Jacqui says the former Queensland State of Origin coach and captain was "very, very positive" about the operation. "Everything we do now is going to be a winner," Ms Lewis told the Nine Network. Prof Berkovic said the possibility of success in the operation was "high, but it's not 100 per cent".

"About 80 per cent of patients either get complete relief of their seizures or a very considerable reduction," he said. "Surgery like this can affect memory and speech but the doctors think Wally will be okay." While it could be two years before Lewis knows whether the surgery has been successful, his family was convinced it was the only option. Lewis represented Australia in 33 Test matches, played 31 State of Origin matches for Queensland and was captain of NRL side the Brisbane Broncos in 1988-89.


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