Don reflects on living with essential tremor and his experience with Ohio State.
Don demonstrates how his programmer works, which instantly gives him perfect control of his hand.
Sandy talks about searching for an answer and finally finding it at Ohio State.
Don talks with his neurologist about the state of his tremor both before and after surgery.
Don tells his neurosurgeon how his life has changed dramatically since his DBS procedure.
Shannon Linder, CNP, talks about her continued work with Don after his DBS surgery.

Deep Brain Stimulation

For an artist, having control of your hands means everything. So when Don, a retired art teacher, started experiencing shakiness in his right hand, it threatened to put his lifelong love on hold. Don was diagnosed with essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable movement. He tried to ease his shakiness with medication.

Despite the medication, Don's tremor persisted. Soon, not only was painting out of the question, but his tremor was becoming so bad it was increasingly difficult for Don to do things on his own. Simple things such as cutting his food and eating required his wife Sandy's help. The active couple, who split their time between Sylvania, Ohio, and Florida, started avoiding social situations. They even ate in the far corner of their favorite Florida restaurant to avoid embarrassment.

Medication was not the answer

"It got to the point where I had to do something."

From the beginning, Don's neurologist recommended he consult with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center about their successful deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy. DBS is an advanced procedure that involves surgically implanting a battery-operated device, similar to a pacemaker, into the body to deliver electrical stimulation to the brain.

Although it sounded impressive, Don was apprehensive and scared of the idea of someone operating on his brain. Instead, the couple decided to keep trying medication to treat Don's tremor. But after a few years of taking different combinations of more than 30 medications with no relief in sight, Don realized no pill was going to alleviate his tremor.

DBS Surgery provided the solution

"I was a little apprehensive about the surgery."

Don's essential tremor continued to interfere with his quality of life, and it was becoming clear medication wasn't the answer. So the couple followed Don's neurologist's recommendation and went to talk to Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center. As soon as they walked into the office, they felt completely at ease with neurologist Dr. Punit Agrawal and neurosurgeon Dr. Ali Rezai, who told the couple they thought Don was the perfect candidate for DBS.

They began testing soon after to make sure of Don's eligibility. DBS requires two surgeries. The first places electrodes into the brain, and the second implants the programmer into the chest. After a few days of assessment, Don was cleared for surgery.

Don's first surgery lasted less than six hours and was completely pain-free. It required Don to stay awake so they could assess the control of his hand throughout the procedure. Sandy was amazed when someone came out of the operating room halfway through to show off a perfectly sketched drawing Don had made.

He's back in control

"If I knew then what I know now, I would have done it right away and not put it off."

Now, Don can control his essential tremor with the click of a button. To stop the shaking, he simply holds the antenna near his chest to turn the programmer on. He returns to Ohio State every six months to see his nurse, Shannon, who helps him adjust the programmer's settings. Don's life is back in control. He's back to painting and is looking forward to going to Florida again. What's first on the agenda? Going to his favorite restaurant, getting a table right out in the open and eating without feeling embarrassed.

What is Neuromodulation?

Neuromodulation is among the most rapidly growing and promising areas in medicine and involves the use of advanced neurological pacemakers and microinfusion delivery devices to deliver calming electrical signals, medications and other therapeutic agents precisely into the brain, spinal cord and the nervous system. In the United States, a growing number of neuromodulation procedures are receiving FDA approval and are covered by insurance. These include:

  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS)/brain pacemakers for Parkinson's disease, tremor, dystonia and obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Spinal cord and nerve pacemaker implants for chronic pain, epilepsy and urinary incontinence
  • Microinfusion device implants for spasticity and chronic pain

Meet Don's Care Team


Ali Rezai, MD


Dr. Ali Rezai, Neurosurgeon at Ohio State. Dr. Rezai is the neurosurgeon who performed Don’s deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery.

Dr. Rezai is the director of the Center for Neuromodulation and leads the DBS program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He has performed more than 1,600 DBS surgeries and is a world-renowned expert in the field.

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Punit Agrawal, DO


Don and Sandy instantly connected with Dr. Agrawal. From the beginning, he put their fears at ease and took the time to make sure all of their questions were answered.

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Shannon Linder, CNP

Certified Nurse Practitioner

Shannon is the nurse who helps Don reprogram his monitor when needed.

Although the couple could see a programmer in Toledo, Don and Sandy prefer making the trip to Columbus just so they can see Shannon and the medical staff at Ohio State.

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