"There were things that we just couldn't do anymore."
For an artist, having control of your hands means everything. So when Don, a retired art teacher, started experiencing shakiness in his right hand, it threatened to put his lifelong love on hold. Don was diagnosed with essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable movement. Trying to ease it with medication, Don and his wife Sandy spent their retirement splitting their time in Sylvania, Ohio and in Florida.
Despite medication, Don's tremor persisted. Soon, not only was painting out of the question, but Don's tremor was becoming so bad it was increasingly difficult for him to do things on his own. Simple things like cutting his food and eating required Sandy's help. The active couple started avoiding social situations and ate in the far corner of their favorite Florida restaurant to avoid embarrassment.
"I was a little apprehensive about surgery."
From the beginning, Don's neurologist recommended he consult with The Ohio State University Medical Center about their successful Deep Brain Stimulation therapy (DBS). DBS is an advanced procedure that involves surgically implanting a battery-operated device, similar to a pacemaker, into the body to deliver electric stimulation to the brain.
Although it sounded impressive, Don was apprehensive and scared of the idea of someone operating on his brain. Instead, the couple decided to keep trying different medications to treat Don's tremor. But after a few years of taking many different combinations of more than 30 medications with no relief in sight, Don realized no pill was going to cure his condition.
"It got to the point where I had to do something."
Don's essential tremor continued to interfere with his quality of life, and it was becoming clear medication wasn't the answer. So the couple followed Don's neurologist's recommendation and went to talk to Ohio State. As soon as they walked into the office, they felt completely at ease with neurologist Dr. Agrawal and neurosurgeon Dr. Rezai, who told the couple they thought Don was the perfect candidate for DBS.
They began testing soon after to make sure of Don's eligibility. DBS requires two surgeries. The first places electrodes into the brain, and the second implants the programmer into the chest. After a few days of assessment, Don was cleared for surgery.
"If I knew then what I know now, I would have done it right away and not put it off."
Don's first surgery lasted less than six hours and was completely pain-free. It required Don to stay awake so they could assess the control of his hand throughout the surgery. Sandy was amazed when someone came out of the operating room halfway through to show off a perfectly sketched drawing Don had made.
Now, Don can control his essential tremor with a click of a button. To stop the shaking, he simply holds the antenna near his chest to turn the programmer on. He returns to Ohio State every six months to see his nurse Shannon, who helps him adjust the programmer's settings. Don's life is back in control. He's back to painting and is looking forward to going to Florida again. What's first on the agenda? Dining right out in the middle of his favorite restaurant.