Ipswich student is celebrating good health one year after life-or-death brain surgery
Live each day in the moment because every second counts.
These are the lessons that 25-year-old Kelly Will has learnt in the year after undergoing life-or-death surgery to remove a huge aneurysm from her brain.
Kelly spent Christmas last year in Addenbrooke’s Hospital recovering from a four-and-a-half-hour operation, from which she said she didn’t expect to wake up.
And this festive season the student from Ipswich has double the reason to celebrate as it marks the one-year anniversary of her surgery and means the risk of her suffering another aneurysm has significantly reduced.
When Kelly’s story was first told in the Ipswich Star in December 2014, readers were inspired by her determination to stay positive, something she has not lost throughout her journey.
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She said: “Every second counts, it really does, and if you are focused on the past then you are not experiencing the now and all you have is the now.
“I’ve been given the opportunity to relive it but with existential euphoria, where you just see life in a new way.
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“Everything is heightened and wonderful – it’s like it’s in HD. And because I had the near-death experience thing I see everything like that all the time.
“It’s about seizing the moment and living it there and then.
“No matter how bad things get you have to see what positives can come out of it; otherwise, what is the point?”
Sitting in between her two best friends, Johnathan Dotchin and Nigel Smith, Kelly said their support had been vital to her getting through this year.
“It feels like we’ve got this little click, it’s like a brain click,” said Kelly, of Ipswich.
Kelly shaved off her hair before the operation, but on the day she was told that surgeons could not cut through her skull because relieving the pressure would rupture the aneurysm and kill her.
Instead, titanium coils were threaded through an artery in her groin and up to her brain to block the flow of blood to the aneurysm, leaving one artery to the aneurysm exposed – allowing blood to flow out and making it shrink over time.
“I look back on it and it went past in a haze but it was a terrifying haze,” added Kelly, who is in the final year of a masters degree in art at University Campus Suffolk.
“They took me for my surgery and got me to sign a consent form that said this surgery has a 60% chance of killing me.
“That was the most terrifying thing that I have ever had to do in my life.”
Kelly still gets side effects from the aneurysm, including headaches, short-term memory loss and concentration issues.
Doctors told Kelly that her personality would change after the surgery so she began an online video blog to document her experiences, some of which she doesn’t remember having when watching them back.
Nigel, 55, said Kelly had become a lot more confident in the past year, adding: “She does strive to live for the moment. Sometimes you think ‘well, pace yourself a little bit’ but she really goes for the maximum.”
Even with facing a number of challenges this year, Kelly said many positives had come out of it, including landing a job as a learning support assistant at Suffolk New College, where she later hopes to train to become a teacher.
More than £3,000 was donated to the neuro critical care unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital through fundraising efforts by Kelly and her friends and family.
And this Christmas Kelly has made the trip that she planned to do last year and has gone to Ireland with her boyfriend, Phil Jackson, and friends Nigel, Matt Long, Peter Gager and Ray Slegg.
At 9am today the group will have a toast to good health as it will mark the exact time one year ago when Kelly was going into surgery.
Kelly has had three brain scans this year – her next one is in Easter – and then she will have one every year after that to check the aneurysm is getting smaller.
She gave special thanks to her doctor, Donald Maceachern at Botesdale Surgery, who she said had been “amazing” and her “crutch”.
If anyone is going through a similar experience, Kelly encourages people to visit her blog for support and advice: www.kellywillthink.tumblr.com