Mike O’Donnell has been dealing with Essential Tremor for over 40 years. The neurological disorder causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking in parts of your body - most often affecting your hands and making tasks like drinking a glass of water or tying your shoelaces a challenge.
Diagnosed as a teenager, Mike has been to every doctor and tried every family of pharmaceuticals you can think of to manage the condition -- and for a while, he was able to keep the tremors under control. Recently, though, they got so bad that the Suwanee, Georgia man had to quit his handyman business and seek further treatment.
This time, the treatment seems to be working. As of August 2021, Mike’s tremors are virtually gone.
Mike turned to Emory University Hospital and was referred to a treatment he was unfamiliar with: Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). DBS is a surgical procedure in which electrodes are implanted into certain areas of the brain that control motor function. Understandably, Mike was a little nervous.
“It is a scary thing when someone says we have new technology that is going to involve drilling holes in your head and sending signals through it,” he said.
Thankfully, Emory is one of the oldest and largest brain health centers in the United States that provides DBS. In fact, the approach was more or less invented at Emory. And lucky for Mike, he doesn’t live too far from the groundbreaking brain health center.
Mike and his wife began researching DBS--they attended webinars from other universities providing the surgery, sought patient stories, and tried to inform themselves as best they could. One resource that was particularly useful for Mike was DBS CareTrek, an app co-developed by Emory and Atlanta-based digital health company Rimidi to help walk patients through the complex DBS process -- there are multiple screenings, appointments, and to-do’s even prior to the actual device implant surgery.
“A lot of times with motion disorders, treatment options feel a little vague. It’s ‘go try this, see if it works.’ My experience with Emory has really been the most detailed and informative of all my tremor treatments -- and DBS CareTrek app is a big part of that,” Mike said. “It gives you a chronological order of what to expect in the next few months, which really help set my expectations for the journey and each step along the way.”
After surgery on, and then again to reposition the electrode on August 15th, Mike reports that his tremors are now unnoticeable.
“It’s a great party trick, turning the device off and on,” he joked.
*Mike was one of the first patients to use DBS CareTrek at Emory, and his valuable feedback is paving the way to app improvements to make the DBS experience even more transparent and understandable for patients.