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Stimulating the brain helps halt Parkinson’s tremors


Shelby Hayter, who has Parkinson’s disease, underwent deep brain stimulation surgery to control her tremors and symptoms.


Shelby Hayter ran the Boston Marathon in 2005, just a month after she was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease. Within a few years, she could no longer run.


Walking became difficult too, because her left foot began dragging. Tremors in her hands made zipping up her coat and holding a glass without spilling difficult. She’d be seized with rigidity and stiffness. At times, her left hand would become a claw. The disease was slowly taking away her mobility.


“Instead of wearing a red, sparkly dress, I would wear beige so I wouldn’t attract attention,” said Hayter. “Before Parkinson’s disease, I was among the life of the party.”


For 11 years, the standard Parkinson’s medication helped take the tremors away and lessened the symptoms. But gradually the treatments became less effective.



Her neurologist, Dr. David Grimes, explained a year ago that she had almost reached the end of the Parkinson’s medication regime. He suggested the next step – deep brain stimulation surgery, whereby electrodes would be implanted in her brain, providing regular electrical pulses to help control the disease’s tremors.


“I felt at the end of the line, that it was a last desperate attempt,” Hayter said.


She was assessed by Neurologist Dr. Tiago Mestre, who considered her a candidate for deep brain stimulation surgery. On Oct. 18, 2016, during an eight-hour surgery, Dr. Adam Sachs implanted micro-electrodes in Hayter’s brain. She was awake for 90 percent of the operation.


Three weeks later, she had a long, involved second part of the procedure when the neurostimulator in her upper right chest was turned on. Then the doctors started to determine the optimum balance between the stimulator voltage and her Parkinson’s medication.


Six months later, Hayter is doing well. Her tremors are under control, the stiffness reduced, and she looks and feels younger. She might even wear a red, sparkly dress again.


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