Joyce's Story

One of Joyce Casillas' biggest wins since having treatment for hand tremors is that her signature is legible again. She had ignored her essential tremors for years and they had progressed, impacting both hands and arms, her face and head. "I noticed it when I sat still in church," she says. "Sometimes, it felt like my whole body was shaking. I got to the point that I was self-conscious about it."

A physical therapist treating her for plantar fasciitis mentioned another patient who recovered from tremors after receiving an MR guided focused ultrasound treatment from Semmes Murphey Clinic's Dr. Aaron Bond. So Joyce made an appointment with neurosurgeon Dr. Bond at Semmes Murphey's Southaven office.

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"Dr. Bond explained that I could choose one of two procedures, invasive surgery to implant a device, or the focused ultrasound. He said, 'when you get ready, let me know. I can take those tremors away.' After thinking about it, I opted for the non-invasive treatment," she says.

"Focused ultrasound is a new, incision-less therapy that does little to no harm to surrounding brain tissue and has minimal side effects," says Dr. Bond. Ultrasound can pass through skin and bone to focus on the precise area of the tremor cells in the brain and destroy them. Patients are awake inside an MRI imaging scanner for the doctor to plan, guide, and target the tremor area.

MR Guided Ultrasound MRI Room

Her procedure went off without a hitch in January 2021, with Dr. Bond explaining every step of the way. They did a few trial runs with the MRI machine to ensure everything was set just right. "Altogether, it took about two hours, and I had immediate relief," Joyce says. "Before the procedure, they had me write my name and draw simple designs. Then afterward, I repeated it. It was amazing to see the change in my handwriting!"

Joyce, who will be 78 in June, says the positive changes show up in many areas of her life. She feels much less fatigued (all that shaking was making her tired), and she can write, eat and cook more confidently. She's a wife and mother with four grown daughters and 12 grandchildren (and another on the way). "I love to bake. I look for any excuse to make a cake and give it away," she says. She's lived in north Mississippi for 55 years and retired from Mississippi Power.

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The only downside, she says, is waiting for her hair to grow back! "It's taking forever," she says, laughing. "It's only about a half-inch long, and I look like a baby bird. I went out to eat with my husband the other night and said, 'I'm not wearing a cap; I'm just going to go with my crew cut!'"