For years, Lori Marble was aware of every step she took. And sometimes those steps led to serious falls. “I have hemidystonia,” said Marble. “That means that there is a disconnect between my brain and the left side of my body. I would sometimes walk like I had had too many drinks, and the risk of falling was always present.”
With dystonia, the signals from the brain don’t get to the arms or legs correctly, causing abnormal movements. Marble would often awaken to find her left hand in a tight fist in addition to having an unsteady and unpredictable walking gait.
Over the years, Marble saw a cadre of doctors and neurologists.
“It was only two years ago that Dr. Kent Cooper made the diagnosis of dystonia. Before that, no one was quite sure how to define the situation. One neurologist told me that the condition would worsen with age, and I would eventually have to use a walker or be confined to a wheel chair.”
But in what Marble characterized as divine intervention in every way, her life changed when she took a serious fall down a flight of stairs.
“One early morning, I made the first step down our kitchen stairs, but I ended up falling down face-first with a coffee cup in my hand. Broken pieces of the cup were embedded in my leg, my glasses cut into my forehead, and I had to go to the emergency room. I had a brain bleed and was admitted to the hospital.
“That morning, the head of neurosurgery for the central region of Mercy Hospital, Dr. Sami Khoshyomn, was on call in the emergency room. He scheduled an appointment with Dr. Kevin Mansfield, a Mercy neuro-motion surgeon, who was able to help me. What are the odds that I would take a fall on the night Dr. Sami was on call and that I would be able to see the newly hired Dr. Mansfield, an expert in neuro-motion?”
Dr. Mansfield is trained to perform an operation called deep brain stimulation. Although the procedure has been performed for a while, Dr. Mansfield is able to perform the operation while the patient is asleep.
“We’ve all seen videos of someone playing the violin while having brain surgery, but when I found out I could be asleep while the electrode was placed in my brain, I was so confident with Dr. Mansfield that I was ready to have the surgery that day.”
During the operation, a thin electrode was placed in Marble’s brain. One week later, a small battery similar to a pacemaker was implanted into her chest and connected with wires under her scalp.
After the operation, Marble remained at home for a month for the scars to heal and to avoid any exposure to illness or infection. But when the battery was finally turned on and the electrodes began to stimulate her brain, the results were astounding.
“My gait and the dexterity of my left hand has improved. It takes about one year to 18 months to find the perfect setting to create the right amount of stimulation. But when I first walked down the hall and turned around, everyone had tears in their eyes. I work at Mercy Hospital, and my co-workers let me know if I am dragging my foot. We continue to tweak the settings on the battery to give me the optimal stimulation.
“For me, the most significant change is gaining an incredibly higher appreciation of medical science and for smart people who figured this out and put the pieces together. It’s crazy that they can geo map my brain and pull this off. Dr. Mansfield was calm and confident. I had walked in fear, but now I am not so fearful. I can walk and hold our granddaughter with confidence.”
For Lori Marble, this is a change of the best kind.
See more of Lori Marble’s incredible story and video produced by Mercy Integrated Marketing at: