Nina’s Chair – Lagacy of Hope at UCLA

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Since Nina’s birth we searched for a solution to free Nina of her seizures. We saw neurologist after neurologist who could only offer temporary fixes and medications to control the seizures. In spite of this devastating curse, Nina graduated from high school at age 16 with straight A’s and gained a scholarship to the University of California, San Diego. She attended summer school there, studied calculus and chemistry and got two A’s in these courses.

Unfortunately the seizures became uncontrollable in her in the fall semester away from home. Her roommate couldn’t deal with the seizures and moved out. Alone, Nina tried to control the seizures with higher doses of medication and never complained or cried for help. It wasn’t until we received her failing grades on a report card that she admitted her life had become a constant hell.

We brought Nina home, took her of the HMO and began a desperate search for someone else to help. In our darkest hour and trough a private doctor’s recommendation we arrived at UCLA. It was 1977 when we shared our story with Dr. Richard Walter. We met with Dr. Paul Crandall, who offered an experimental surgery to help Nina. He had been pioneering surgical treatments for epilepsy since the early 1960s and started the first Epilepsy Surgery Research Program at UCLA. Without his vision to look beyond the conventional treatments of epilepsy, I don’t know what we would have done.
Dr. Crandall gained our undying gratitude for his courage and lifelong dedication to the study of surgical interventions to control epileptic seizures. His magic hands performed a surgery that extended our daughter’s life for 30 years.

Dr. Crandall’s research gave Nina a chance to realize her dream of becoming a teacher. After the surgery, she completed her degrees in college, went on to earn a Ph.D in education that led to becoming the Assistant Superintendent at the Santa Ana School District. She helped many students with handicaps, language barriers and behavioral problems. Nina was involved in developing community aid programs. Her personal triumphs in life led her to understand the need to give these students second chances in life.

For more than 50 years, Nina illuminated and guided the lives of her parents and so many others she graciously helped, despite her battle with epilepsy. In 2011, at age 52, Nina died from sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP), a rare outcome for those who suffer from the disease.

In honor of Nina’s spirit of compassion and determination, we, her parents, Thomas and Nadia Davies, have committed to $2 million to establish the Dr. Alfonsina Q. Davies Endowed Chair in Honor of Paul Crandall, M.D., for Epilepsy Research in the Department of Neurosurgery at UCLA. The endowed chair will be awarded to a preeminent physician-scientist with a history of creativity, innovation, and the willingness to solve old problems in new ways. We chose to make this gift because of Dr. Crandall’s pioneering work that helped Nina and led to UCLA’s position as a world-leader in the surgical treatment of epilepsy. We believe that the creation of this chair in memory of Nina will advance UCLA’s innovative treatments and optimum care for the millions of children and adults affected by this third most prevalent neurological disorder.

“Nina’s Chair” permanently reflects a legacy of compassion, as well as a commitment to others like her, so that they may find a house of healing at UCLA and no longer suffer in silence. For generations to come, the work and support made possible through Nina’s Chair will shine as a beacon of hope and inspiration for today and tomorrow.