(PH)OENIX, Arizona – Nov. 20, 2019 – Hawaiian actress and artist Laura Mellow, who spent much of her life battling epilepsy, is seizure-free after undergoing brain surgery at Phoenix’s Barrow Neurological Institute. Mellow, whose life partner is actor Dennis Chun, will make her season debut on this Friday’s episode of Hawaii Five-0. Mellow plays Nalani Lukela, the wife of Chun’s character Sgt. Duke Lukela.
Mellow began having seizures when she was just eight years old. By the time adolescence hit, she was having seizures every day. Her epilepsy went on hiatus from the time she was 23 years old until she was 31. When the electrical storms in her brain returned, Mellow once again endured daily seizures.
The journey for a solution to Mellow’s seizures took years and a transpacific trip from her home in Honolulu to Barrow Neurological Institute, which is part of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. Mellow had already tried 20 medications and none of them worked. Before arriving at Barrow, one physician told her she would never live a normal life and that she could die from Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUD)EP.
The tide turned for Mellow in 2005 when her epileptologist in Hawaii, who trained at Barrow Neurological Institute years earlier, recommended a trip to see Kris Smith, MD, a neurosurgeon at Barrow specializing in the surgical treatment of epilepsy.
Mellow underwent two groundbreaking, minimally invasive surgeries designed to stop her seizures. The first entailed a procedure to insert electrodes to pinpoint where in Laura’s brain the seizures originated. Dr. Smith then performed a second surgery to remove a lump of scar tissue in the location of the brain causing the seizures. Mellow has not had a single seizure since her brain surgeries in 2005.
“From the moment I woke up from surgery, I felt different,” says Laura. “I am able to drive and use a computer again. I can swim again. Never in a million years did I think I would be living this life. Barrow and Dr. Smith gave me my life back.”