Future is bright for courageous trainee
At just 18 years old, AFL SportsReady trainee Jessica Banik underwent critical brain surgery, to help alleviate her crippling epilepsy. While others may balk at the thought of surgery, Jessica remained completely awake while her team of surgeons performed the intense 6-hour operation.
“When I was 4 years old, I came home from kinder one day and my mum was talking to me when suddenly my speech started to slur,’ said Jessica.
“Shortly after I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I was having up to 100 seizures a day which involved my speech slurring, repetitious movements and my left side of my face twitching,” she added.
Four years later doctors operated on Jessica’s brain removing a section they believed were causing the seizures. Although it helped, she continued to have seizures on a daily basis.
“It wasn’t until last year when the doctors and surgeons decided I should have another surgery. The doctors said it would be a similar surgery to my previous one, however, this time I would be completely awake.”
The surgery required Jessica to be awake so the surgeons were able to safeguard the areas of her brain responsible for movement and speech.
“Of course, at first I was a little bit freaked out by the concept but I knew that it would be the best thing for me. I am heading toward a new chapter in my life where I would need my own independence, and having epilepsy wasn’t going to let me do that.”
Jessica’s strong resolve helped her through the ordeal. She even stayed true to the millennial stereotype by passing the time on her phone and sending text messages to her family and friends, while doctors operated on her brain.
“The worst pain I had the whole time was from laying on my right-hand side. The loud drilling sound into my head was also very scary but I just stayed strong and kept thinking of a life without epilepsy.”
The surgery was a huge success and Jessica has not had a single seizure since the operation.
Jessica undergoing the 6-hour surgery.
Jessica is also completing a traineeship at the school she went to, Yarram Secondary College, as a PE trainee while studying a Certificate III in Sports and Recreation.
“I was completely supported through my surgery and recovery by everyone at the school and at AFL SportsReady. Everyone was understanding of what I was going through and made it easy for me to catch up on lost time.
“I really do feel so grateful.”
The AFL SportsReady team have been inspired by Jessica’s bravery and we can’t wait to see what life without epilepsy has in store.
To find out more about the diverse range of rewarding careers available through vocational education and training, and watch the real skills for real careers video, visit www.myskills.gov.au
DATE: 23rd of April 2018
AUTHOR: Marissa Pagliarello
IMAGE: Jessica (right) with her mum, Vanessa (Middle) and sister, Georgie.