William was a 3rd year MChem student at the University of York and had come home for the Easter holidays when he died suddenly and without warning in his sleep on 7th April 2011 aged 21. His family and friends are utterly devastated. We have lost a loving son, brother and our best friend and the world has lost a gifted scientist. Although he didn’t sit his final exams, the University of York has awarded William a posthumous BSc in chemistry in recognition of his hard work and his potential.William was an intelligent, generous, kind-hearted young man and we will always be immensely proud of him. His slightly eccentric traits endeared him to everyone who met him and it is a cruel irony that the chemical and electrical make-up of his brain which gave Will his unique personality would lead to this untimely tragedy.

In his last few days, Will had spent his time revising for his final exams, fixing a neighbour’s computer, playing computer games and learning to play the ukulele he had just bought to add to his collection of musical instruments. At midnight I asked him not to stay up too late playing computer games. That was the last thing I said to him. He usually slept in late and when his father took up a coffee for him at lunchtime, it was obvious that he had had a seizure and passed away much earlier in the night. It was a horror no parent should ever see.

Will had his first seizure at 18, one night just before he went off to University. We saw the doctor immediately and following a normal MRI scan it was thought to be a one-off incident caused by over-excitement about the prospect of going to University. After 16 months he had another seizure at night and we discussed medication with the consultant who advised us that the seizures were so infrequent that in his opinion medication was not necessary at that time. Will refused to accept that he had epilepsy at all, or that it was a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Neither did we really understand, although the very rare possibility of SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death from Epilepsy) was mentioned at one meeting. Will had another seizure about 10 months before be died but the consultant still ‘signed him off’. Will took this to mean that he was ‘cured’ but agreed that if he had one more seizure he would start medication even though we all knew there was no guarantee this would prevent seizures in the future. The next seizure resulted in his death.

William was a brilliant scientist so we felt that Epilepsy Research UK was the right charity to set up a Memorial Fund in his name. The work of Epilepsy Research UK is focused on researching into the causes and treatment of epilepsy, with the aim of achieving better understanding of the causes, identifying new means to control the condition, improving the treatment and quality of life of those with epilepsy, and perhaps ultimately to find a cure. It is the only national charity dedicated to funding independent epilepsy research.

Thank you for your support.

– Imelda and Michael Kay, and Will’s brother Christopher, May 2011