Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy – Part 2

~ Helping to Restore the Quality Life in Patients ~

Editors Note:  This article is a continuation of Part 1, which appeared in the March edition of Prime Time For Seniors.

~ By Jessica Edgar, Prime Time For Seniors ~

Gayle Schendzielos, a Colorado Springs native, was diagnosed with Essential Tremor 15 years ago. In that time, as the “shakes” became worse, she lost her job, sold her piano, quit playing bridge because she couldn’t hold the cards, and stopped fly-fishing because she could not finesse the line. But in the past year, this grandmother of 17 was able to teach her granddaughter how to sew and write her name again perfectly. Gayle got her quality of life back thanks to Dr. Hebb and his team performing Deep Brain-Stimulation surgery (DBS).

When the tremors first appeared shortly after her 50th birthday, Gayle decided to seek treatment. Three out of four siblings in her family had inherited the disease and made the decision to live with the “shakes” as their mother called them. Gayle had started taking the drugs to treat what she now knew as Essential Tremor. But as the prescriptions piled on and the tremors got worse to the point where she had to depend on her husband for every little thing. Gayle started to lose hope and withdrawal from life. She couldn’t brush her teeth, let alone recap the toothpaste by herself anymore. She was lost in a medicated state unable to care for herself anymore.

Dr. Monique Giroux, a neurologist and medical director of the Movement Disorders and Deep Brain Stimulation program at the Swedish Medical Center, sent an invite to Gayle for a support group at the Movement and Neuroperformance Center. It was here that Dr. Giroux explained to Gayle her options including the DBS Surgery. She did her research, conferred with Dr. Hebb, director of Functional Neurosurgery, and physician assistant Sierra Farris, expert in movement disorders and DBS programming. Gayle had decided to go through with the surgery and have the team from the Swedish Medical Center perform the surgery. She was impressed with how closely the team worked together, and more importantly, how comfortable and at ease Dr. Hebb made her feel about the entire procedure. So on February 6, 2013, Gayle checked in for the DBS surgery and 30 hours later, she was on her way home able to draw a straight line.

The DBS surgery involves placing leads in the brain that are controlled by a small, pacemaker-like device that is implanted in the chest. The electric impulses disrupt the brain signals responsible for the movement disorders. The leads, which are spaghetti-like, are placed in specific spots that are unique to each patient. DBS has proven effective in Essential Tremor, Dystopia, and Parkinson’s patients. DBS only helps with the physical aspect of each disease and cannot help with degeneration as in Parkinson’s patients.

Gayle entered the operating room excited. Dr. Hebb had been very thorough in explaining each step of the surgery to her and during the procedure he was just as thorough and comforting. Gayle was mildly sedated for the procedure so that Dr. Hebb and team could ask her questions and talk to her for the best placement of the leads. Being able to communicate with Gayle during the procedure, Dr. Hebb could customize the placement of the leads for the best possible outcome.

Now Gayle is 95% back to normal. She is fly-fishing with her family, she is doing glass again, playing bridge, and brushing her own teeth! The surgery not only gave Gayle her Quality of Life back, but empowered her, made her feel whole again!

If you would like to receive more information on this life changing surgery or interested in the support group at the Movement and NeuroPerformance Center at the Swedish Medical Center (they meet every other month on the first Tuesday. The next meeting will Tuesday June 3, 2014), please refer to the Swedish Medical Center website: www.swedishhospital.com/dbs or the Colorado Brain and Spine Institute at: www.cbsi.com or call (303)783-8844

Special Thank You to Gayle Schendzielos for sharing her story and Dr. Hebb for taking time to talk to me about the surgery.

References in article from Making Life Golden Again: Brain-Stimulating Surgery Gives Some Patients Their Quality of Life Back by Debra Melani and The Medtronic website.

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