As I chronicled here in previous posts, a little over a year ago I had a series of surgeries to address an essential tremor that had gotten in the way of living a normal life. For those of you who didn’t read, these surgeries included running wires deep into my brain and then connecting those wires to batteries placed in my chest. The batteries send signals to my brain that in turn steady my hands and head.
The initial results of the surgery were impressive. Even before the batteries were turned on, the swelling in my brain related to the placement of the wires steadied my hands in ways that I hadn’t experienced since my early 20’s. When my batteries were initially set by my neurologist, the tremors were gone but the side effects were significant. Notably, I had “spidery” feelings in my legs and a pull on the corner of my mouth that made it more difficult to talk. So, back to the neurologist I went to have my batteries turned down until my body got used to the extra current running through my brain.
Over time, we increased the voltage which diminished the tremors but increased the side-effects. It was always a trade-off. I found it easy, however, to live with the mild side-effects for the benefit of a reduced tremor.
About three months ago, however, my tremors, especially in my left hand, came back significantly. I had feelings that I hadn’t had since before the surgery. It was discouraging. However, my side effects were also gone. I had room to move up.
I’ve had two adjustments in the last two months. When I first had my batteries set, I could barely tolerate 1.8 volts on the right side of my brain (which affects my left side). Today, the right side was set at 2.3 volts. When they upped the voltage a little over a month ago, the tremor improved briefly, but then got a bit worse. But, again, I had no side effects. Today, I left the doctor’s office with very little tremor, but with a slight side-effect in my left leg.
So, I don’t know what the limits are in terms of voltage. I don’t know how much of this is my body getting used to having extra current running through it and absorbing the effect. I don’t know how much of this is my tremor getting worse. I don’t know how much room I still have to adjust the multiple setting on the batteries (voltage is only one variable). But today, my hands are steady and I am pleased.