Lion’s Club program sheds light on local man’s long struggle


CR/KRISTIN BURDEY Loren Rue recently underwent Deep Brain Stimulation therapy for a movement disorder known as “Essential Tremors.” Loren is pictured here with his wife, Jean.
By : 
Kristin Burdey
Tri-County Record

If you’ve never heard of a movement disorder known as “essential tremors” you’re not alone. Peterson resident Loren Rue had suffered from the ailment for nearly a decade before he could put a name on his condition.

In an upcoming program sponsored by the Rushford Lion’s Club, Dr. Rachel Biemiller, a neurologist with Gundersen Health System, will be discussing the topic of treatment for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremors, including a procedure recently performed on Loren Rue. The free presentation by Dr. Biemiller, who specializes in movement disorders, is scheduled for Wednesday, April 3, at the Rushford Legion at 7 p.m.  

Rue began experiencing a slight tremor in his voice and in his hands about a decade ago while still living on the farm on Dump Hill Road. His doctor had suggested that an appointment with a specialist in neurology would be in his best interest, but Rue declined the advice, believing his problem to be less serious than it was.

But as Rue’s symptoms grew progressively worse, so did his concerns. “It was getting so that I didn’t want to go out to eat in a public place because it was so hard to manage. I had to drink my coffee with two hands,” Rue recalled. His increasingly severe tremors impacted everything from his vocal chords to his fine motor skills, which were essential to his job as owner of Purchasing Power. Social gatherings like weddings and funerals were particularly difficult because when trying to carry both a plate and cup, spillage was inevitable. “It was a real pain to deal with.”

It took the retirement of his  general practitioner for Rue to take action. “A new doctor named Dr. Hammel came in and said, “I am making you an appointment,” Rue reflected, realizing that further care was no longer optional but necessary.

Testing determined that Rue was demonstrating symptoms of a broader category called “essential tremors.” The condition is sometimes misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, as the disorders present some of the same symptoms. Both are considered disorders of movement, but there are significant differences between the two.

The first step was for Rue to try a number of different medications in the search for the right one. “If they can control (the tremors) with a pill, that is ideal,” he explained. Rue was prescribed a variety of medications, including seizure drugs. “After three or four different pills, they determined that the drugs weren’t working. Then I became a candidate for surgery.”

That surgery is a procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy. According to the Mayo Clinic, DBS involves implanting electrodes within certain areas of the brain to produce electrical impulses for the purpose of regulating abnormal impulses. In order to be eligible for the surgery, a number of factors needed to be taken into consideration to evaluate whether a patient is a good candidate including a patient’s overall health.

“I asked the doctor if I was already excluded because of my age,” recalled Rue, who was 74 at the time. “I was told that even people 80 or 90 can qualify. I had to do psychological testing, and met with psychologists, social workers, occupational and physical therapy, and more. There are all sorts of tests to see if you can handle it, physically and otherwise. Then they all get together and have a meeting to see if you’re a sufficient candidate.” The fact that Rue was still working and physically active helped to ensure that he would be a good fit.

After being approved for the procedure, Rue underwent CAT scans and MRIs to map out the brain for the surgeon. “They needed to find the safest route to get wires to the brain stem.” During the pre-op, four screws were imbedded in Rue’s skull in order to install a ‘halo’ for stabilizing the head and prohibiting movement.  “I’ve never heard such a sound,” recounted Rue, in reference to the drilling, “but it didn’t hurt a bit.”

Rue was kept awake and alert during the actual surgery in order to isolate the precise areas of the brain in question. “Since the tremor affected my voice, they wanted me to talk (during the procedure) so they could find the right spot. Then they brought out a pen and paper for me to take a circle test, where I had to stay between the lines. Prior to the surgery I would have been all over the page,” recalled Rue.

“There was a nurse on my right explaining as we went on, probably for reassurance. There was no pain – perhaps a little discomfort, but nothing hurt. You could ask questions and they would assure you that it was all going according to plan.”

Rue was kept overnight in the hospital, then brought back the following day in order to install both a battery and the wires that run from the battery to the brain. After allowing several weeks of healing, Rue returned to the doctor for final placement of the wires. As soon as the wires were connected to the battery, the effects were immediate.

Since the surgery, Rue has discovered that there are many others who would like to learn more about his surgery. “People started asking questions,” he shared. “There are a lot of people out there who are experiencing this and try to hide it. A lot more than you know.” When he discussed the topic with the Rushford Lions Club, of which he is a member, they decided to bring in a specialist for a public presentation. “If we would have known this (procedure) existed at the onset (of his symptoms), we would have looked into it,” Loren’s wife Jean says in an endorsement of the surgery. “It’s so good to know that it can be done.”

“It’s not a cure-all,” explains Rue. “I still don’t write like I used to, but at least I can now, and you can read it. I can work with numbers again.”

The Rues encourage anyone curious about both movement disorders and the means of treating them to attend the April 3 presentation. “The doctor ensured me that I could do this; that it can be done. I would definitely recommend this surgery.”

Comments

I will be at this meeting as I have a tremor in my left arm;  think it is from muscle damage from an accident I had.  Makes it hard to do my sewing and if I work hard it gets a lot worse.  Thanks for the info.