“You don’t point very well, do you, Grandpa?” said one of my father’s grandsons, critically, when that child was about aged five.
It’s true, though. Grandpa didn’t point very well, because 15+ years ago my Dad developed what’s called an essential tremor, which is, as I understand it, basically a short in the electrical wiring of the brain that causes (usually) the sufferer’s dominant hand to shake uncontrollably, but which can also affect the other hand, the head, and the gait.
Dad, never one to do things by half measures, got the whole lot. It’s gotten increasingly dramatic, and he hasn’t been able to write with a pen or pencil for well over a decade, or eat without holding nearly everything—cups, utensils, food that can be eaten by hand—in both hands, to render some degree of control over its motion. It’s not much control, though, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that repeating the action makes the shake worse, so it goes from not being able to pick something up steadily to his hand wobbling dramatically off toward the sky when he even tries to reach for something.
It’s a fairly common disability, it turns out, affecting about 1 in 10 people over the age of 60. I didn’t even know it was that common until a few days ago.
It’s also pretty damn debilitating, and for the past couple years Dad’s been in contact with a neurologist in Dublin who ran a bunch of tests, shouting with delight as Dad, attempting to touch his chin or pick up a cup, shook more and more extensively, until the gestures were wholly and completely out of control.
This doesn’t sound like something that you’d be shouting with delight over, but to the neurologist, it was proof positive that Dad was probably a perfect candidate for something called Deep Brain Stimulation, which sounds pretty dramatic but is in fact even more dramatic than it sounds, because it MAKES YOU A CYBORG. Surgeons insert (very slender) wires deep into the brain, reconnecting the part that’s shorting out, then run the wires under the skin to behind the ear, then down behind the ear, along the neck, to a pacemaker inserted under the collarbone.
Dad had DBS surgery Wednesday morning.
The whole exciting story behind the cut!
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(x-posted from The Essential Kit)