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Two men form incredible bond over living with half a brain

Two young men who joke they have ‘one brain between them’ share a remarkable bond years after going under the knife in an extreme operation to end their seizures.

Lewis Unwin, 24, from the UK and Aaron Payne, 20, from Warwick in Queensland met after they both had life-altering operations on their brains.

Aaron was 15 when he went under the knife to have the left side of his brain removed in what’s known as an anatomical hemispherectomy.

Lewis Unwin, 24, from the UK and Aaron Payne, 20, from Warwick in Queensland, pictured, both went under the knife to have half of their brain disconnected or removed to stop seizures

Lewis is not a personal trainer and has worked hard to regain use of the left side of his body

Aaron is part of the para state table tennis team and has a future free of seizures

The friends bonded online over their experiences living life with half a brain and support each other through the hard times

Lewis recently came to Australia to meet Aaron - and said they 'clicked immediately' 

Lewis recently came to Australia to meet Aaron – and said they ‘clicked immediately’ 

Lewis was 18 when he had his operation, a functional hemispherectomy, to disconnect the right side of his brain. 

‘Living with half a brain’ has given both of the young men a future – and helped them strike up their unlikely friendship.

Both young men have been left with permanent disabilities following their operations – but told Daily Mail Australia being seizure-free is worth it. 

‘I was having hundreds of seizures every day and had to wear a helmet because I would drop and hit my head,’ Aaron told Daily Mail Australia.

‘I had lots of whirly visions and I was on lots of drugs – now I am drug free, my vision is clear and I don’t have any more seizures,’ he said.

The operation took away his biggest passion, the ability to read, left him weak on his right side and without sight in one eye but ‘was worth it’.  

Lewis gave Aaron some tips in the gym and hopes it helps improve the strength in his friend's right side

Lewis gave Aaron some tips in the gym and hopes it helps improve the strength in his friend’s right side

The friends found they have adapted their lives in similar ways - including how they open jars

The friends found they have adapted their lives in similar ways – including how they open jars

‘I am definitely glad I did it – it was a little bit scary but when it was all over it was such a relief,’ he said. 

A world away, in England, Lewis also had the operation. He is now celebrating six years ‘with half a brain’. 

‘My operation was a bit different they only disconnected the right side of my brain instead of actually taking it out,’ he said. 

Lewis was experiencing ‘constant seizures down the left side’ of his body before making the decision to have to operation. 

Lewis is now celebrating six years 'with half a brain' and says he would make the difficult decision all over again if he had to

Lewis is now celebrating six years ‘with half a brain’ and says he would make the difficult decision all over again if he had to

‘It was kind of like Parkinson’s but just down one side. When I was younger I had drop seizures but I hadn’t experienced that for a long time,’ he said.  

Because Lewis had the right side of his brain disconnected his coordination was more effected than Aaron’s, but he didn’t lose his sight or ability to read.

‘I struggled most with the physical aspect of it and have worked really hard to get movement and strength back in my left side,’ he said.

He is now a disabled athlete and personal trainer.   

‘For me working out is my therapy, I have worked really hard at the gym to improve the strength in my left side and I am getting stronger every day,’ he said. 

Because Lewis had the right side of his brain disconnected his coordination was more effected than Aaron's, but he didn't lose his sight or ability to read

Because Lewis had the right side of his brain disconnected his coordination was more effected than Aaron’s, but he didn’t lose his sight or ability to read

‘I feel like I have more of a future now and if I had to go back I would still make the same choice.’  

Aaron and Lewis formed their bond online four years ago – finding comfort in each other’s experiences.

So when Lewis and his family had the opportunity to visit Australia visiting Aaron was one of the top priorities.

The family spent a week with the Paynes, experiencing life on the family farm and realised they had more in common in person than they expected.   

‘He opens jars the same way I do,’ Lewis said.

‘It is interesting to see that we have both adapted to the world the same way – but I still can’t tie my shoelaces one handed like Aaron can.’ 

Aaron pictured with his mother Kathy and father John 

Aaron pictured with his mother Kathy and father John 

Both of the young men agree that family is very important following the very extreme and invasive operation.

‘It isn’t just about the individual, when you have an operation like this it involves the whole family, and I noticed his family were very supportive – like my own,’ Lewis said.

Aaron’s mother Kathy, who had to make the heart-wrenching decision to let her son have the procedure, plays a very active role in her sons life.

He is on the state para table tennis team which means he needs to be driven to events – his mother says those trips are ‘so much better than taking him to hospitals’.

Aaron's mother Kathy, who had to make the heart-wrenching decision to let her son have the procedure, plays a very active role in her sons life

Aaron’s mother Kathy, who had to make the heart-wrenching decision to let her son have the procedure, plays a very active role in her sons life

‘They are left with permanent disabilities. Aaron lost a lot of his speech and the ability to read but we look at him, our handsome man, and he had a future. He didn’t before,’ she said.

‘The outcomes from a hemispherectomy are varied but all have permanent disabilities. He has a quality of life now.

‘Before he had to wear a helmet if he wasn’t sleeping, he could never be alone and he had more than 100 seizures a day. No teenager wants to wear a helmet or live like that.’

'The outcomes from a hemispherectomy are varied but all have permanent disabilities. He has a quality of life now,' Aaron's mum said

‘The outcomes from a hemispherectomy are varied but all have permanent disabilities. He has a quality of life now,’ Aaron’s mum said

'Before he had to wear a helmet if he wasn't sleeping, he could never be alone and he had more than 100 seizures a day. No teenager wants to wear a helmet or live like that.'

‘Before he had to wear a helmet if he wasn’t sleeping, he could never be alone and he had more than 100 seizures a day. No teenager wants to wear a helmet or live like that.’

Aaron works with his family on their farm where they run cattle, and enjoys gardening.

Being on the farm gives him freedom to explore his potential.

‘I love driving the tractor, I am not allowed to have my car licence for the road, but I can drive our tractor on the farm,’ he said.

The young men hope their next meeting will happen in the UK, with Lewis excited to share his life on the other side of the world with his friend.

Aaron and his family have had a lot of support from the Hemispherectomy Australia Foundation and have met 11 other people who have had the same procedure. 

'It isn't just about the individual, when you have an operation like this it involves the whole family, and I noticed his family were very supportive ¿ like my own,' Lewis said. Lewis pictured left with his mother Kaye, Aaron is right with his mother Kathy

‘It isn’t just about the individual, when you have an operation like this it involves the whole family, and I noticed his family were very supportive – like my own,’ Lewis said. Lewis pictured left with his mother Kaye, Aaron is right with his mother Kathy



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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