By Harold (Hal) Thiemann
I was diagnosed with Essential Tremors (right side dominant) by my primary care provider in June of 2012 and prescribed Propranolol. The tremors got progressively worse with head tremors, difficulty eating without embarrassing noise from clanking utensils on dinnerware, and constant spilling of foods and drink. My wife Joy had to physically carry my drinks and liquids to the table.
As an aside comment, I spent three years on the Summerfield Association Board of Directors, where we currently live. I was nominated for president for the next term and knowing that I would have to be signing important documents including bank account business, I rejected the opportunity because of my tremors.
More recently, my signature was challenged by the Washington County Elections Commission, where I had to go out to Hillsboro to prove that it was really my signature. I also spent 40 years as an “Off-Ice Official” with The Portland Winterhawks, retiring in 2016 because of my tremors.
My neurologist, Dr. Megan Madden from The Portland Clinic-South, suggested I have a SPEC scan or DAT scan at OHSU to help determine if I might have Parkinson’s Disease in addition to Essential Tremors. The findings of the November 2018 scan showed “Abnormal 1-123 DAT scan with decreased right putamen.”
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal by Melvin Konner describing a new “Focused Ultrasound” procedure. Then I also read two other articles on this new procedure, one by AARP and the other by Dr. Ahmed M. Raslan from the OHSU Brain Institute.
I talked to my healthcare insurance company to see if the procedure would be covered by my health insurance. They acknowledged yes! Focused ultrasound was recently approved by the FDA as the first MRI-guided procedure to treat essential tremor (left or right side only, as confirmed by OHSU).
I saw Dr. Raslan for a pre-op evaluation on August 18, 2022 where he said I would be an “excellent candidate.”
A plan was initiated at OHSU with Antonia Gragg, M.S., P.A.-C on November 9, with a lot of scheduling by a lot of very nice people like Christine Larsen R.N., Naamah Geach PA-S, Vivone Souvannachoumkham PA-S, and my PCP Dr. Stephen Newberry and neurologist Dr. Madden. I certainly want to personally thank Dr. Raslan and his assisting doctors Drs. Daniel R. Cleary and Erik W. Larson.
All went well. The procedure was completed successfully on November 23, the day before Thanksgiving, and wrapped it up the following day with an MRI on the hill. My thanks also go to my dear wife of 60 years, Joy, who has helped me through this and other health issues most of my life.
It wasn’t until returning to the original prep-room that I was asked to show my wife Joy the results: No more tremors or head shaking. YEA!!! God has answered our prayers through wonderful medical care and modern technology. It brings tears to my eyes when the tremors are all gone on the right side.
Nearly ten miserable years has passed since I was first diagnosed with Essential Tremors and the on-set of Parkinson’s. I know that I’ll have to re-learn to reach first with my right hand and use my old writing skills again right handed. My signature is surprising like it used to be.
I do know other friends that have been through DBS and I personally want to share my good story with others, to let anyone with Essential Tremors look into this Non-Invasive Focused Ultrasound technology.
My best wishes for anyone needing or considering this procedure.