Arlene's 'Life Is Back,' Thanks To Surgery To Control Her Hand Tremors

“You don’t realize, when you have two able hands, what tremors will do,” says Arlene Mammen.

The 69-year-old had suffered for years with a condition called essential tremor, that caused her to lose control of her hands. Her quality of life plummeted.

‘I couldn’t do anything’

“I couldn’t do anything. I can’t tell you how many times I burned myself with coffee,” she says.

“I couldn’t get my key in the lock to secure my doors when I left home. I couldn’t swipe my debit card. People, sometimes strangers, helped me with everything.”

Medications improved her hand function for a while but, just after she retired, she noticed a change.

Her neurologist recommended surgery, and she met Paul Gigante, MD, neurosurgeon at Fairview Southdale Hospital.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Paul and Arlene decided to proceed with deep brain stimulation surgery—an option for patients who have not improved with medications.

During the first procedure, Paul placed a tiny electrode in her brain and, in a later surgery, he placed a battery pack in her chest, which would stop the tremors in her dominant right hand.

She was awake for part of the first surgery so the surgeon could see if the electrode was controlling her tremor.

“I was scared, but I can’t say enough about Dr. Gigante and the team,” says Arlene.

During the first surgery, Paul asked Arlene to draw a circle and write her name.

“Her hand was out of control and the writing indecipherable but, when I turned on the probe, she drew a perfect circle and wrote her name in cursive,” he says. “It was beautiful.”

‘My life is back’

Arlene is grateful to her entire care team. She says nurses from her first surgery stopped to greet her when she came for the second and visited her as she recovered.

“I was almost homebound, and now I can travel again. I can dog-sit for my son’s family in Arizona. My life is back. How do you thank someone for that?”

The Fairview Spine and Brain Clinic offers comprehensive, surgical spine care for chronic neck, back and limb pain.

Using advanced technology, we are able to monitor patients neurological function while operating. Treatments include removing brain tumors, addressing trigeminal neuralgia and using deep brain stimulation.

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