Inside experimental Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery

By Audrey Williams

May 6, 2013 Updated May 6, 2013 at 10:30 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- It was 18 years ago that we first brought you a horrific story involving Peorian Mary Scroggs who was hit by a drunk driver.

Now, she is undergoing experimental brain surgery to help with an issue caused by that crash.

"I'm hoping it will help my ability to get around, my ability to hold a drink in my hand and drink it. And it's going to sound silly, but I've got this really neat iPhone with a camera," said Scroggs.

She was the picture of health, until 18 years ago when her life turned upside down. July 18th, 1994 she was run over by a drunk driver in front of Caterpillar world headquarters in downtown Peoria.

Scroggs said, "they thought I was dead under the car. I was in a coma for 8 weeks."

The crash left her paralyzed on the right side of her face, mostly blind and she has developed a strong tremor in her right hand and leg.

"According to Mayo Clinic and according to Dr. Pratt, my neurologist here in town, I do not have Parkinson's, but I have parkinsonism. I'm under that umbrella," she said.

Dr. Dyveke Pratt at OSF Saint Francis' Illinois Neurological Institute suggested Scroggs try Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, or DBS.

"A surgical procedure in which these very thin wires are implanted deep into the brain, and it's those deep structures in the brain that are thought to be implicated in some of the generation or the development of the movement problems they have when they have things like tremors and Parkinson's disease," said Dr. Pratt.

DBS is commonly used for patients with Parkinson's disease, dystonia , and tremor. However, Dr. Pratt said there aren't many documented cases on patients similar to Scroggs, "The goal for surgery for someone with parkinsonism is to improve their parkinsonian syndrome. In Mary's condition she's got stiffness and she's got a tremor, and the hope is, it will improve those things."

April 3rd, with more than a dozen people in the operating room, Scroggs had the electrode put in her brain. She was awake the entire time so doctors could monitor the simulator and find the ideal placement.

"During the surgery I could hold my hand up and not have it tremble," said Scroggs.

After the surgery, she had to heal before the doctor could turn the device on. One month later, Dr. Pratt programmed the device and signs of improvement were evident.

"I did see reduction in the tremor. I think we're proceeding cautiously because she is somebody who does not have Parkinson's disease and I usually like to keep the voltages very low at the beginning just to avoid other side effects," said Dr. Pratt.

That day Scroggs had a hard time explaining her feelings. She said, "to tell somebody what it feels like to have electronics run through your brain is not easy. I sat there, and at one point or a couple times, I literally could not talk.

Scroggs went into the surgery with high hopes...high hopes that once again she could do the most basic of things.

Now, Dr. Pratt plans to publish this case. She said, "We're lucky to have people like Mary who are sort of willing to undertake these procedures knowing that there's no clinical evidence to support that it's going to work. What we do as physicians is when we do have a positive case or even a negative case, we tell the rest of the medical community."

Scroggs hopes one day her experience can help someone else.

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