My husband, Robert “Bob” Dakin was diagnosed with Essential Tremors about 30 years ago. About 10 years ago the VA diagnosed the tremors as being caused by his exposure to Agent Orange while stationed in Vietnam. Agent Orange basically messed up his nervous system.
Mayo Clinic’s definition for essential tremor is a nervous system (neurological) disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It can affect almost any part of your body, but the trembling occurs most often in your hands — especially when you do simple tasks, such as drinking from a glass or tying shoelaces.
Essential tremor typically worsens over time and can be severe in some people. Sometimes essential tremors are confused with Parkinson’s disease. It can occur at any age but is most common in people age 40 and older.
My husband’s tremors began in his late 20s and had progressively worsened. They severely affected his life and his capabilities. Not only did they cause his hands to shake uncontrollably, both of his legs shook and his head bobbed. They were starting to affect his balance and he was starting to fall a lot. His body was in a constant state of motion and he couldn’t feed himself, shave, or even sign his name. Not to mention not being able to tie his shoes, button buttons, zip zippers, and much more.
Not only did tremors affect Bob’s physical life, they also affected him mentally. He was embarrassed to eat in public and have to be seen getting spoon fed by me. His severe tremors also caused him a lot of depression.
After years of trying various prescription drugs and having no luck, we finally were sent to see Dr. Terry Rowland, a neurologist now working at Columbia V. A. Hospital. On his first visit, Dr. Rowland brought up the possibility of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery. Bob and I both thought it sounded like a good idea and he felt he had nothing to lose since the quality of his life had deteriorated so much. Dr. Rowland got the wheels in motion and in a couple of weeks we went to see Dr. Thorkild Norregaard, a neurosurgeon at University of Missouri Hospital.