CLEVELAND, OH – She is a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a fighter.
Judy Slater of Pennsylvania says, “My grandson was getting fussy so I was going to get out of bed and pick him up and put him in bed with me and I went to get out of bed and I just fell to the floor.”
It was Memorial Day Weekend, 2015 when a stroke paralyzed Slater’s entire left side.
Slater says,”I couldn’t walk, and then I couldn’t move my hands. So I couldn’t feed myself, or get dressed or I couldn’t do all the things you do every day.”
Months of rehab allowed Judy to regain some movement in her leg, but her left arm remained motionless.
During the same time, Chairman of the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, Doctor Andre Machado, was beginning a groundbreaking brain study to help patients better recover after a stroke.
Slater became the perfect candidate for the procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS.
Dr. Machado says, “This has never been done before. This is a unique study that was completely developed here at Cleveland Clinic with support from the NIH Brain Initiative.”
“I was a little bit scared. I was like, it didn’t happen to anybody else so I don’t have nothing to go on,” said Slater.
During a DBS procedure, which is commonly used for Parkinson’s patients, thin wires called electrodes are placed into one or both sides of the brain in specific areas that control movement.
“And this little computer with a battery in the chest sends very controlled signals to the brain area that we’re trying to modulate,” said Dr. Machado.
Next month will mark the one year anniversary for Judy’s procedure and despite great risk of the unknown, she is making tremendous strides, even with the device still implanted in her brain.
Dr. Machado says, “She has more than doubled her capacity to utilize her hand.”
Judy says it is her family that gives her the motivation to fight, and for that, during this holiday season, she is thankful.
“I’m just happy it’s gonna help people. I hope they all see this. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work, but it’s gonna be worth it in the end.”
It’s still not clear if or when Judy will have the device removed from her brain.
Once her rehabilitation is complete in February, doctors will turn off the stimulator to see if the benefits she has gained remain.
A woman from Akron has already become the second patient to undergo DBS and more candidates are currently being enrolled in the study.