I look in my husband’s eyes, and he doesn’t recognize me anymore. Still, I look. I hope desperately that one day, even for a moment, he will realize it’s me. It has been weeks since I’ve had that rush of joy.
He looks small and lost and lonely sitting in his favorite recliner chair. Everything around him is familiar: photographs of our kids, a record player he bought in college, the cabinet he built for me for our 35th wedding anniversary. These things should recall for him sweet memories of our years together, but he stares at them blankly.
Would I give anything to have him back in my life? Yes, I would. I would give anything to hear his booming laughter, to have him willingly wrap his arm around my shoulder, to hear him say, “I love you”.
Neurosurgeon Andres Lozano has for years been working on a treatment that has the potential to bring my husband back to me. The procedure, called deep brain stimulation, has been used successfully to treat certain neurological disorders, including genetic dystonia, depression, and Parkinson’s disease. It may soon be an Alzheimer’s treatment.
In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the brain begins to shut down in areas that no longer absorb glucose. Scientists have long considered these areas of the brain to be dead, irreparable. Dr. Lozano’s research has shown that with deep brain stimulation, the brain will begin to absorb glucose again in these areas. So they aren’t, in fact, dead. Dr. Lozano has now begun clinical trials with Alzheimer’s patients to see if deep brain stimulation can not just improve the brain’s absorption of glucose in areas that have previously shut down, but improve neurological function.
It remains to be seen how Alzheimer’s patients will respond to this treatment, but in other areas of study, deep brain stimulation has been highly effective.
I, for one, will choose to hope.