Nina’s Chair — Legacy of Hope at UCLA

“For more than a decade, we searched for a solution to free Nina of her epileptic seizures. We saw neurologist after neurologist and could only turn up 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 honorable acceptance into the University of California, San Diego.

Yet, the seizures became uncontrollable in her first semester away from home. Her roommate couldn’t deal with the seizures and so 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 deteriorated.

In our darkest hour, a beam of hope shined on our search when we arrived at UCLA. It was in 1977, we shared our story with Dr. Richard Walter and met with Dr. Paul Crandall, who offered an experimental surgery at the time 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, without his pioneering spirit to delve into the depths of the human brain and draw on new technology to put an end to these seizures, 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 saved our daughter’s life.

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 her to becoming the Assistant Superintendent of the Santa Ana School District, a large Southern California school district. She helped many students with 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.  She was totally bilingual and could communicate with the community thus gaining their trust and respect.

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. It is estimated that 50.000 Americans die annually from causes related to epilepsy, as many as many as do die from breast cancer.

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 for Epilepsy Research in Honor of Paul Crandall, M.D. It is housed in the Department of Neurosurgery at UCLA. Nina ‘s whole Estate was donated to the chair and so far, all told we have $750,000 collected and are in the process of asking for donations to complete the 2 million promised. PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN.

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 believe that the creation of this chair in memory of Nina will advance innovative treatments and optimum care for all those like Nina who are suffering from this debilitating disease. “Nina’s Chair” permanently reflects a legacy of compassion, as well as a commitment to others like her, so that they may find healing 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.