'Pacemaker' for the brain a life-changer for Maplewood, Minn. man

For more than 30 years a Maplewood man hasn't been able to do some of the simplest things, but after a pair of brain surgeries he's starting to live a normal life again. This is all thanks to Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery, a procedure that has been around for two decades, and is now being used to treat everything from Parkinson’s, to Dystonia, to possibly depression.

"My head feels like a cracked egg," Dennis Russell told Fox 9.

Recently Russell has been able to sign his name again, a simple skill he has relearned that has become a life changing event.

"It was for me the miracle. Like you said, the basic things people do. I used to be able to do it when I was young and I couldn't do it. It was frustrating and made me angry."

When Russell was in his 20s he came down with Essential Tremor, a disorder that makes his hands, head and sometimes even his voice shake.

In addition to hampering his ability to write, the tremors made it difficult for him to do simple tasks like hold a glass of water, eat, type, or even dress himself.

"Buttoning for sure was always hard. Just about every little thing people take for granted was hard for me."

Since most medications he tried didn’t work, Russell’s neurologist suggested surgery to implant a device in his brain to control his tremors.

Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery has been described as a pacemaker for the brain. The operation involved keeping Russell awake and alert as doctors gave him simple commands to follow like pointing a laser at different points on the ceiling. The doctors would then stimulate parts of the brain until the tremors were gone, and Russell was able to follow the instructions with ease.

The implant in his brain can be activated with a remote device he carries with him so he can turn the current on as needed to combat tremors.

The surgery for his right hand was so successful he did it again for his left.

Since the surgery he has been able to regain control of many parts of his life which seemed lost. He also says he couldn’t be happier with his decision to go through with the operation.

"It’s a no brainer. A no brainer for sure."

For more information on Essential Tremor click here.