FLASHBACK PICTURE UPDATE: Brain surgery unites brave hospital fund-raisers Alex Pickett and North Walsham mayor Vivienne Uprichard
Brain surgery and courage united a mayor and a sportsman at a double fund-raising event in North Walsham which has raised cash for two hospitals.
A year ago this month Alex Pickett, who plays with North Walsham FC reserves, was undergoing a 12-hour brain operation at the specialist Queen Square hospital in London to try and stop daily epileptic seizures which were blighting his life.
Mr Pickett has just celebrated a fit-free year with a sponsored headshave in aid of Queen Square at a charity event organised by North Walsham mayor Vivienne Uprichard - who was pleased to help as she herself underwent surgery for a brain tumour.
Mrs Uprichard's strip-a-thon, at the town's Black Swan pub, saw four sponsored male volunteers have chests or legs waxed to help reach her impressive �2,000 mayoral year target in aid of the league of friends of North Walsham's war memorial hospital which opened this month after being rebuilt.
Mrs Uprichard, 67, will hand over her mayoral chain to a successor at Tuesday's town council meeting after a testing year of office following the sudden death of her husband Adrian last November.
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Despite her bereavement, she resumed her civic duties in time to take an active part in the town's Christmas lights switch-on.
It was while Mrs Uprichard and her husband were living in Germany in the 1990s that she underwent a routine medical check and brain scan.
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She remembered dropping in at the doctor's some time afterwards. 'It was the Thursday before Good Friday and I told her that I wanted to know the results because I didn't want to worry over Easter.
'I think her English wasn't brilliant - I don't think she meant it to come out like this - because she said: 'You should worry. You have a brain tumour.' I was totally freaked.'
The tumour, behind Mrs Uprichard's eyes, was mostly removed by keyhole surgery through the roof of her mouth and nasal passage. Although not life-threatening, it could have left her virtually blind, with tunnel vision. Regular checks over the intervening years have happily shown that the remaining part of the tumour has not grown.
'I could sympathise with what Alex had been through when he asked about doing his head shave,' she said.
Mr Pickett, 22, of Yarmouth Road, North Walsham, suffered meningitis as an eight-month-old baby but, apart from slight deafness which he later grew out of, it was thought that he had made a full recovery.
However one morning about four years ago he collapsed at the wheel of his car as he was driving along Yarmouth Road in North Walsham.
His vehicle collided with the wall of the police station car park, flipped over and came to rest in a neighbouring garden.
Tests revealed that the meningitis had left scarring in Mr Pickett's brain and the damage had begun triggering epileptic seizures.
As he waited for surgery, relying on medication to control the epilepsy, the seizures increased from two or three times a week to three or four daily attacks.
Mr Pickett had to give up driving, football and his job as a scaffolder with Eastern Counties Scaffolding.
'I was at home doing nothing. My dad took time off work to look after me,' he recalled.
Specialists warned Mr Pickett that there was only a 30pc chance of surgery resulting in a full recovery and a 50pc possibility that it would reduce his seizures to about six a year.
But, apart from mild short-term memory loss, Mr Pickett said he had not had any seizures or other problems since the operation on May 19 last year.
He added: 'It's amazing, incredible - unbelievable.' He is now back at work and has re-applied for his driving licence. He hopes to have raised about �500 with his head shave.
Mrs Uprichard raised money through her year of office through a Dutch auction, a collection at the annual civic service and the strip-a-thon. Anyone who would like to add to her fund can do so via the town council offices on New Road, North Walsham.