Affecting a million individuals in the United Kingdom, this ailment leads to tremors in the hands and head.
Preparing a cup of tea may not be perceived as a luxury. This ordinary ritual remains a fixture in many households, regardless of life’s challenges.
However, for Mary Hapgood, a 73-year-old former interior designer, even the simple act of making tea became a hazardous and exasperating ordeal due to her trembling hands. This condition made her prone to breaking mugs and leaving a mess behind.
Residing in Surrey and a mother of three, Mary is among the approximately one million individuals in the United Kingdom who grapple with Essential Tremor (ET). This is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by a spectrum of symptoms, ranging from mild tremors to uncontrollable shaking.
Mary shared with The Mirror, “There is limited awareness regarding ET. When I had my third child, the consultant misdiagnosed me with Parkinson’s disease because he was unfamiliar with ET.”
“Following examinations, the diagnosis was eventually confirmed, and his recommendation was for me to consume a daily glass of sherry.”
The ailment has hindered Mary’s daily tasks, such as boiling water for tea or slicing vegetables.
She explained, “I couldn’t even prepare a cup of tea. I was consistently scalding myself, and on one occasion, my kitchen was in complete disarray. I sat down on the floor and cried out of sheer frustration.”
This condition results from disruptions in the brain’s electrical circuits responsible for coordinating movements.
Mary experienced the impact of her tremors on all aspects of her life. She explained, “I have a passion for cooking, but I had to relinquish it due to the challenges it presented, which were frankly perilous.”
“I had to quit my job. Even dining out at a restaurant became a distressing experience, as I couldn’t control the shaking in my hands and head.”
“My social relationships were put to the test because I felt too embarrassed to go out or invite people over to my home. Just imagine not being able to make a simple cup of tea for someone? For nearly three years, I refrained from hosting anyone and rarely ventured out.”
Fortunately, the 73-year-old regained her quality of life thanks to an innovative therapy that employs ultrasound waves to target and eliminate the flawed neural connections responsible for her tremors.
She was among the initial individuals to undergo focused ultrasound therapy aimed at disrupting the root cause of her tremors.
The non-surgical procedure, lasting approximately two hours, utilizes an MRI scanner to precisely guide a sub-millimeter ultrasound beam to target and neutralize the troublesome areas within the brain.
Conducted at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in central London, the process necessitates patients to have their head shaved. Subsequently, a silicone skull cap is applied to cool the head, and a framework is affixed on top of it.
The ultrasound is delivered in 10-second intervals to disrupt the malfunctioning neural circuit, leading to a reduction in tremors and a restoration of personal independence for the patients.
Prior to the development of this procedure, patients had limited treatment options, either relying on medications or undergoing intricate surgical interventions that involved implanting devices into their brains to mitigate the tremors.
Mary expressed, “The procedure had an immediate and transformative impact on my life, as the tremors have significantly diminished. I regained the ability to welcome friends and family into my home, and, most importantly, I could embrace my adorable granddaughter, Molly. I’ve reclaimed my life.”
Before the surgery, she struggled with tasks like tracing a spiral with a pen and signing her name. However, right after the procedure, her ability to write returned to normal, which was truly remarkable.
Currently, the NHS has a waiting list for this treatment that extends up to four years. Mary considers herself “very fortunate” to have undergone the procedure, which has rekindled her quality of life.
(By Diana Buntajova)