Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Science! Just Like Magic ... Except It's Real


Classic science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke is famously recorded as saying, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." And there's no other way to describe the gloriously elegant treatment that Dan received last Thursday (Dec 9) to resolve his hand tremours. 

See, we describe the tremour as a very very good "bad thing." Because 15 years ago when he had brain cancer he wasn't expected to live long enough for these to develop. So we're delighted to have encountered this.

The conventional approach involves a wire electrode implanted in the brain and a battery under the skin in the chest (think like a pacemaker), but his neurologist emphatically did not want any surgery that could be avoided. Focused Ultrasound is a new technology where hundreds of energy beams converge on a particular spot deep in the brain. Each beam alone is too weak to cause any damage, but where they intersect there is enough power to sear the spot causing the trouble. Non invasive, effective, and quick healing time. The linked article explains it pretty well; and here's a photo tour of Dan's experiences. 

We stayed the night before in a gloriously elegant old hotel in Baltimore, right near the hospital. Here's his last night of having hair (more on that later).

The hotel is the repurposed headquarters offices of the B and O Railroad. Obviously built to impress! 

Detail of a column at the hotel.

The day of the treatment started out with ... a haircut. Even a single hair could deflect one of the many energy beams that had to converge on that particular spot in the brain, so off it all came. Nurse Chris (who was excellent, competent, humorous, and calm) claimed that now they were twins. And this was an interesting, and very human moment: I had said I wasn't going to share any pictures of Dan being vulnerable. Chris disagreed -- "Sometimes these moments are also part of life. Don't pretend it's always only good." 

The renowned Dr. Eisenberg explains the frame that will hold Dan's head in place during the treatment. Dan’s case was extra complicated because they had to work around the previous brain cancer scars. Drs. Eisenberg and Fishman, mentioned in the article, were on his care team and said his case was a unique and enjoyable technical challenge because they could only use 800 or so of the 1000 beams due to that scarring. The amazing thing is that unlike the 50-60% reduction in tremour expected Dan is a whopping 80%! Overachiever! 

One measure of tremour is the ability (or lack thereof!) to trace a pen along a spiral maze without hitting the walls. Here's the "before."

The "after" is much improved; and he continued to improve after this!

With nurse Pamela's explicit permission, he was allowed a small glass of wine the next evening. Triumphantly, he was able to hold out his glass at arm's length for a toast. This is something he hadn't been able to do for years for fear of spilling.

Sweet friend Penny knitted this gorgeous hat for him when she learned they had had to shave his head in December. He said it warmed him twice - once from the thick soft wool, and again for the kind thoughts. 

And the ultimate proof -- able to hold a full coffee mug at arm's length without sloshing.