I’d always been a physically active person. Like so many others, staying active helped me keep a clear head and forget the troubles of everyday life–if only for the briefest of moments.
This came to an abrupt end in 2010. What I thought was a pulled muscle in my lower back turned into a pain that only worsened. As it spread, I started losing control over different areas of my body, beginning with my feet.
Unprompted, my toes would curl up under my feet, making it impossible to walk or even put shoes on at times. It became clear something was seriously wrong, so I decided to see a doctor.
After a series of referrals and a slew of physicians who didn’t know what I had, I finally met Doctor Fishman– a professor of neurology at the University of Maryland. Having run some preliminary tests, Doctor Fishman gave me the news that no one ever wants to hear: Parkinson’s Disease.
From there everything changed. I couldn’t play with my grandson. I couldn’t dance at a friend’s wedding. I couldn’t even take short walks with my husband without sometimes having to be carried home because the pain in my foot was so excruciating. I felt powerless as life’s most important moments slowly passed me by.
It was at this time that I first learned about focused ultrasound technology. Dr. Fishman explained they could use focused ultrasonic energy on my brain to target and “burn away” my tremors without surgery or the recovery time and risk of infection surgery carries. Not having my scalp cut open and my skull drilled made my decision to pursue focused ultrasound an easy one.
Since focused ultrasound was only available for clinical trial at the University of Maryland at the time, I was told that I would be the first patient to receive the treatment in Maryland.
I arrived at the hospital in a wheelchair. The nurse shaved my head and gave me a special cap to wear. A frame was attached to my head, which was then hooked to the MRI table so that I would be secured in place for total accuracy. After each treatment or “zap,” doctors would check in on how I felt, and I began to feel less pain and more control.
When we finished, the clinical director smiled at me and said, “Get up, you can walk,” and I knew it was true. As far as I was concerned, it was a miracle. I had entered the hospital in a wheelchair. I left walking on my own two feet.
After my own miracle, I want other patients to have access to this amazing treatment too. That’s why I recently traveled to D.C. to meet with lawmakers and raise awareness about the effectiveness of focused ultrasound technology. I want elected leaders to know that this treatment works and that it has the potential to improve quality of life for other Parkinson’s patients like me.