Diana Pillas, longtime coordinator-counselor of the Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, died Saturday, Feb. 6, of breast cancer. Pillas, 69, continued to work until the week before her death.
For more than 40 years she advised patients, residents and staff at Hopkins in the management of epilepsy.
"Knowledgeable, patient, thoughtful and kind, she helped families to understand the condition, to cope with adversity, and to look toward a better future," says John M. Freeman, M.D., professor emeritus of pediatrics and neurology and Director Emeritus of the Pediatric Epilepsy Center.
Not only was she a mainstay of the clinic, she had twice been president of the Epilepsy Association of Maryland, which later became The Abilities Network-Epilepsy Association of the Chesapeake. She chaired the affiliate network of the Epilepsy Foundation of America and became a vice president of the organization.
“She will be missed by the Hopkins staff and by the many, many patients whose lives she touched, and the many residents and epilepsy fellows she helped to train," Freeman said.
"She was always there for patients," according to Justin McArthur, M.D, director of the Department of Neurology, "She had such an impact on so many people and will be remembered so fondly."
Her colleagues recall her ability to put young epilepsy patients and their families at ease.
"When patients and families talk with physicians, they often are too intimidated by the information and the setting to listen carefully. Diana served to assure patients. She sat in while we physicians explained the problem to the families, and then played the valuable role of sitting with them to repeat, translate and reassure patients of what had been said. This valuable role is often missing in medicine, and we were very fortunate to have Diana to translate for us," says Freeman.
"Diana was the heart of pediatric epilepsy at Johns Hopkins for 40 years. She was the bright, energetic and reassuring voice that reached out to thousands of patients and their families as they navigated the medical and emotional impact of the diagnosis. She taught generations of us that children with epilepsy needed to live lives that were not defined by the disorder," says pediatric neurologist Patti Vining, M.D., director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Hopkins Children's.
Her work also touched many children and families. Film producer Jim Abrahams and his wife, Nancy, met Pillas several years ago when they came in search of treatment for their son’s seizures, subsequently cured by the Ketogenic diet.
"To travel across country with our critically ill child, and the overwhelming fear and apprehension, and then to be greeted, comforted and guided by the strength, warmth and compassion of Diana Pillas at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Epilepsy Center was a great blessing in our lives. We will always be grateful to Diana for being there for us - and the thousands like us,” the Abrahams said.
Friends and colleagues may visit at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home on Sunday, February 14th from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m to 9 p.m. A viewing and the funeral service will take place at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation on Monday, February 15th beginning at 10:30 a.m.