This story recounts the experience of one individual who is receiving Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation Therapy to reduce symptoms of essential tremor. Please bear in mind that the experiences are specific to this particular person.
Kristin was 15 years old when she first noticed the tremor in her right hand. She didn’t talk about the shaking and kept her hand in her pocket. She didn’t know anyone else that had essential tremor — especially at her age. During college, lifestyle changes like less sleep made her tremor worsen. Kristin wanted to pursue a career in healthcare so she could help others. “Here I was trying to apply a bandage to a patient and I was shaking like a leaf,” Kristin recalls. “How was I supposed to instill confidence in them?”
Kristin tried hand therapy and several rounds of various medications to control her essential tremor. “Medication worked for a short period but the tremors crept back and became worse,” Kristin explains. “Some medication made me drowsy or dizzy, or I’d hallucinate. I was only 18 years old and wondering, ‘What if I have to live with this for the rest of my life?’”
Realizing the importance of being one’s own healthcare advocate, Kristin researched treatments for essential tremor online. “I found the Medtronic website and learned everything I could about deep brain stimulation. I met with a surgeon and we both determined that DBS was the best option for me. I was 20 years old when I started. I wasn’t nervous about the surgery; I just wanted to get myself back.”
Kristin’s procedure took about 6 hours. She was awake for most of the time. “During the surgery, the doctor would ask me to do things, like write my name or hold a glass of water, so he could determine if he was accessing the correct part of my brain,” Kristin recalls. “These things had been difficult for me before but now my tremors were controlled and I could do them! I was overwhelmed that all those years of shaking were over.”
Kristin had surgery on a Monday and went home on Wednesday night. For a short time after the procedure, she had limited range of motion in her arm and neck. She also had to get used to the feeling of the neurostimulator under the skin of her chest, and the stiffness in her neck after the DBS wires were placed.
DBS Therapy requires brain surgery. Risks of brain surgery may include serious complications such as coma, bleeding inside the brain, stroke, seizures, and infection. Some of these may be fatal. Once implanted, the system may become infected, parts may wear through your skin, and the lead or lead/extension connector may move. Medtronic DBS Therapy could stop suddenly because of mechanical or electrical problems. Any of these situations may require additional surgery or cause your symptoms to return or worsen.
Medtronic DBS Therapy may also cause new or worsening neurological or psychiatric symptoms. In patients receiving Medtronic DBS Therapy, depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide have been reported.
Kristin finished her degree, got married, and now has two young sons. She works 4 days a week, doing cardiac monitoring. “DBS allows me to care for others,” Kristin reflects. “Not only my family but my patients too. There’s no way I could do my job without DBS Therapy. I have to put these itty bitty ECG stickers on newborn babies’ chests!”
Kristin became a Medtronic Patient Ambassador and shares her experience with people who have tremors and are exploring treatment options. Kristin can answer questions about daily activities and exercising with DBS Therapy or how you know when a programming change is necessary. “I enjoy talking to people about things like getting a device replacement because I’ve been there,” Kristin states. “I especially like to be a face and voice for younger people.”
Kristin has also participated in seminars with neurologists and neurosurgeons about essential tremor. She’d like to raise awareness among doctors as well as the general public so people can be diagnosed sooner and receive the best treatment options for them.
When Kristin isn’t working, being a mom, or helping others, she tries to fit in a run or play in a local soccer league. “DBS Therapy gave me my life back. Ok, I don’t do headers in soccer anymore,” she laughed, “but I can run as well as I ever have!”
Medtronic invited this patient to share her story candidly. Not everyone who receives Medtronic DBS Therapy will receive the same results as the individual in this story; some people may experience significant symptom relief from DBS Therapy, and others may experience minimal symptom relief. Talk to your doctor to determine if Medtronic DBS Therapy is right for you.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.