Jeremy Schreifels was just a young child when he was first diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, a nervous system disorder characterized by sudden, involuntary movements or vocalizations (“tics”). In Jeremy’s case, his tics have included arm jerking, shoulder shrugging, head-turning, or making a noise reminiscent of sneezing. According to the Citrus County Chronicle, his tics have also been relatively severe. However, Jeremy, 19 years old, is getting closer to something that he has been waiting for for a while: deep brain stimulation (DBS).
What is Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)?
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) explains that deep brain stimulation (DBS) is:
an elective surgical procedures in which electrodes, [which] generate electrical impulses that control abnormal brain activity, are implanted into certain brain areas. The electrical impulses can also adjust for the chemical imbalances within the brain that cause various conditions.
A neurostimulator is implanted in the skin. Through a wire, this passes electrical current through the electrodes (also known as leads) and into the brain. In the past, DBS has been used to treat dystonia, epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Parkinson’s disease. Currently, researchers are also evaluating DBS as a potential treatment for chronic pain, Huntington’s disease, and Tourette syndrome.
Jeremy’s Quest for DBS
As described above, DBS is not yet approved for the treatment of Tourette syndrome. Because of this, Jeremy’s insurance declined coverage. However, Jeremy had the support of his community behind him; together, they helped to raise over $245,000 for Jeremy to receive treatment.
Unfortunately, there have been some roadblocks in this quest. First, the COVID-19 pandemic made it harder to receive treatment in overburdened hospitals. Additionally, Jeremy contracted COVID-19, meaning that he had to rest and recover before doctors could determine if he was healthy enough to undergo surgery. The surgery date was also moved back several times.
However, Jeremy is currently working on medication regulation and behavioral therapy to help him work on his anxiety. Doctors hope that this will help him manage the stresses of life and the stresses associated with surgery. All Jeremy knows is that he is excited for what he views as a new lease on life.
About Tourette Syndrome
As described above, Tourette syndrome is a nervous system disorder which causes tics. Jeremy’s tics are listed above, but other tics include repetitive blinking, shoulder shrugging, throat clearing, grunting, barking, word repetition, and nose twitching. Tics typically appear between ages two to fifteen, with an average age of appearance being six. Males are 3-4x more likely to develop Tourette syndrome. Tourette syndrome is a variable condition, so symptoms vary from person to person. Additional symptoms and characteristics can include:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Learning disabilities
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Behavioral difficulties, such as aggression or socially inappropriate behaviors
- Sensory processing issues
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep