KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Imagine having trouble writing your name or pouring a glass of water because your hands shake so badly. That was the case for a Gardner, Kan., man.
The tremors started when Mark Hansen was in junior high, and they worsened over four decades. Mark has essential tremor, a condition that he inherited. He said it’s been difficult to cope physically and emotionally.
“It did hurt my feelings when people would say things about it,” Hansen said.
Medicine didn’t help. Hansen learned that surgery called deep brain stimulation could help. Surgeons implant electrodes in the brain and connect them to a battery in the chest. When the device is turned on, it creates a current to block the impulses that cause the shaking.
Most patients around the country who have the surgery are awake during it so the surgeon can test to make sure the wires are in the right place.
“Oh, I did not want to be awake. Just hearing the words brain surgery can be intimidating,” Hansen said.
“As you can imagine, this could be very frightening for the patients,” said Dr. Stephen Griffith, a neurosurgeon at Saint Luke’s Hospital.
Hansen learned that Dr. Griffith has extensive experience in doing the procedure while patients are asleep. He uses a special CT scanner.
“To take images of the brain which can then be fused to earlier imaging which then allows us to have the confirmation of where we place our electrodes,” Dr. Griffith said.
The patient doesn’t have to be awake. Hansen had the surgery this spring. With the device on, the tremors are gone. Life is so much easier. Hansen looks at his hands and marvels.
“That I’ve been blessed with the opportunity. You know, that’s really the truth,” he said.
He has two steady hands.