Essential Tremor
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My Deep-Brain Stimulation Surgery
I have lived with Essential Tremor (ET) for over 40 years, since I was 11 years old. ET causes tremors in my hands, arms, head, voice, & even internally. I've spent my entire life mastering & developing coping skills so as to hide my tremors from the world. ET patients become experts at living a life filled with excuses, lies & deception. Around 40 years of age, my tremors became more severe & were greatly affecting my quality of life.

I spent years trying every traditional & non-traditional therapy known to humankind, but nothing worked. After watching the "20/20" program about DBS surgery in 1996, I knew that this procedure could change my life. My bilateral DBS surgery was performed on February 23, 1999 by Dr. Fred Junn, a very experienced & excellent neurosurgeon at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.

DBS surgery involves surgically implanting a medical device, called the Activa System, developed by Medtronic, the manufacturer of pacemakers. The technology is similar to the pacemaker. The Activa System works by electrically stimulating the site in the brain, called the thalamus, that controls movement & muscle function. When the thalamus is stimulated with mild electrical signals, tremor is suppressed. After surgery, a doctor or nurse programs the neurostimulator to adjust the stimulation to the patient's needs. The patient can start or stop the stimulation with a special magnet.

DBS surgery requires you to be awake during most of the surgery, so only a local anesthetic is given. Since ET patients don't tremor during sleep, the surgeon needs the patient to be awake to determine if (s)he has positioned the electrode in the proper location in the thalamus. Most patients have the neurostimulator (generator) placed below the collarbone. I am thin, pale, & scar easily, so for vanity reasons, I was concerned about the typical placement. I opted for locating the generators in my abdomen, which required extra-long wires.

After scheduling my surgery, I decided that by making sure my physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual health were as good as possible, that my surgery & recovery would be a breeze. In addition, I read a wonderful book, called "Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster" by Peggy Huddleston (refer to I used Peggy's book & tape, which is for relaxation & visualization. I also called Peggy & had her help me, by phone, to prepare the images I would be using for visualization. I listened to her tape twice a day & incorporated most of her suggestions listed in the book.

Well, everything worked according to plan, because my surgery & recovery were so successful! The surgery corrected my hand tremors approximately 90 - 98%, while my voice & head tremors are completely eliminated. I asked for help from an Occupational Hand Therapist, because I had to teach my brain & right hand to work "normally" again. After so many years of tremor & compensation, my right hand did not work or "hold itself" normally. I've had great success with re-learning how to hold eating utensils, drinking glasses, scissors, pen, camera, etc.

I feel so very fortunate to have had this life-changing surgery! Having lived with tremors for most of my life, I will never take this miracle for granted. I take every opportunity to educate people about ET & DBS surgery. I love freaking people out when they learn that I am truly a living Bionic Woman!

Background Information | Deep-Brain Stimulation Surgery | Links