Dr. Jeffrey Lee Hatcher developed severe epilepsy while a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University. Having previously had a couple of seizures after graduating from college, he knew that he was at risk, but he did not yet think of himself as a person with epilepsy. More importantly, he gave no thought to the psychological or cognitive consequences of having the disease while planning out his life. Soon enough, however, he would find himself in need of counsel, wisdom, and knowledge, which would ultimately prove difficult to find.
At a time that should have marked the halfway point of his formal studies, he regained consciousness in a hospital with only a fragmentary recall of the latest six months to a year of his life. An hour long string of seizures had disrupted his breathing to the point of minor brain damage. He would eventually recover most of his faculties – enough to continue laboratory research and also research wildlife in East Africa. However, these activities were to be a professional dead end. Such might not have been the case were better counseling for life strategies available to people with epilepsy. He still copes with memory issues 24 years after the event.
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In a fourth trip to East Africa, he led a small group of workers collecting dung samples of the forest – dwelling blue monkey, Cercopithecus mitis. This final trip to Africa included a lot of time traveling from forest fragment to forest fragment in western Kenya. Each day brought a brand new landscape to grow familiar with. While competent with a compass and being close to his hired companions, the feeling of constant disorientation took a heavy psychological toll on his fondness for the exploration of wildlife habitat which he had had since childhood. This psychological transformation gives another example of how epilepsy manifests as a mental illness.
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Jeffrey did his B.A. in the Biology & Society major at Cornell University from 1986 to 1990.
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Operating room. From A text-book on surgery: general, operative, and mechanical. J.A. Wyeth, c1897 New York : Appleton