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									                                                                                                            Clinical Medicine 2010, Vol 10, No 1: 91–2




literature and medicine
Epilepsy – the                                         mission, he was invited as a guest to the
                                                       battalion’s 1937 St David’s Day dinner at
                                                                                                                then followed investigations at a military
                                                                                                                hospital in Oxford, under the supervi-
making of a                                            the Anglesey Arms, Menai Bridge:                         sion of Dr (later Sir) Hugh Cairns. Kyffin
                                                            I went to bed at about 12.30 happy and              describes these as follows:
painter: Sir (John)                                         sober. I don’t know when I woke, but I               [M]y first test was the inevitable lumbar punc-
                                                            remember lying beside the open window. It            ture. This was followed a few days later by the
Kyffin Williams                                             was unbearably cold and I was covered in             electro-encephalogram, the first machine of its
                                                            snow. There was a taste of blood in my               kind to be assembled in this country. I sat in a
                                                            mouth and my tongue was terribly                     wire-netting rabbit hutch and a strange per-
  This column explores the links
                                                            painful…. I must have lost consciousness,            manent-wave machine hung above my head
  and synergies between medicine
                                                            for the next thing I remember was waking             as terminals were attached to my ether-soaked
  and literature. What roles can
                                                            up in bed…. My tongue was agony, but I got           hair. At the other end of the room a girl pressed
  literature play in reflecting and
                                                            up, dressed and unsteadily made my way               a switch, and a large metal hand started to
  influencing good practice, and
                                                            downstairs to breakfast. I don’t think I ever        draw a crazy graph on some paper pinned to
  what sorts of images of doctoring
                                                            got there, because once again I found myself         the wall.
  are to be found in drama, poetry,
                                                            in bed, my tongue was worse and everything
  fiction, biography, electronic fora                                                                            The next day in came my doctor. ‘What are
                                                            was unbelievably vague.
  and film? The editors would be                                                                                 you going to do when you leave the army?
  pleased to receive short papers,                       A few weeks later he was taken to see                   …as in fact you are abnormal,’ he
  ranging from 500–1,000 words,                        Dr Henry Cohen in Liverpool, whom                         announced. ‘I think it would be a good idea
  on relevant topics. Those                            Kyffin described as:                                      if you took up art’.
  interested in contributing should                         a dapper and confident neurologist…. He
  email brian.hurwitz@kcl.ac.uk or                          told me that I had had an attack of grand             Acting on this suggestion, Kyffin
  neil.vickers@kcl.ac.uk                                    mal epilepsy, that the pupil of my left eye         enrolled in the Slade School of Fine Art,
                                                            was fixed and I had no reaction to light, and       in October 1941, which by then had
                                                            that I had no reflexes in my knees. He pre-         evacuated to Oxford to amalgamate with
If Kyffin Williams had not developed                        scribed luminal and a foul tasting mixture          the Ruskin School of Art for the duration
epilepsy he might never have become a                       of belladonna and Irish moss.                       of the war.
painter. Kyffin (pronounced Kuffin)                                                                               In his first year at the Slade, Kyffin
                                                         A few days after he returned home, in
Williams was born in Anglesey in 1918,                                                                          described his artistic prowess: ‘As the
                                                       April 1937, he received his commission
the second son of Henry Inglis Wynne                                                                            worst student there, I was ashamed
                                                       in the 6th Battalion Royal Welch
Williams, a banker, and Essylit Mary                                                                            when I compared my insensitive life
                                                       Fusiliers.
Williams, both children of Church of                                                                            drawings with those of seventeen year
                                                         Six months after the first attack of
England rectors on the island. Kyffin’s                                                                         old girls’. During the war years there
                               
								
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