A Newburgh Man's Progress After Brain Pacemaker

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Web Producer: Kerry Corum

A Healthwatch follow-up on the Newburgh man, who is one of the first patients in the country to receive a brain pacemaker for his condition.

Sam Fischer had the device implanted two-months ago, to control painful spasms caused by a neurological disorder.

That neurological disorder is dystonia, and it affects about 250,000 people in the U.S.

This year, the FDA is allowing 4000 of them to get a brain pacemaker, and only as a last resort.

Two-months post-op, Sam Fischer Junior of Newburgh, is finding out the treatment is delivering results, but not as quickly as he'd like.

The wheelchair is in the garage and that's where Sam hopes it stays.

Just hours after brain surgery at a Pittsburgh hospital, he took his first steps, and he's been walking ever since.

Sam says it feels great to walk again. He says, "It felt like the last twelve years didn't even happen."

Sam wore patches of medication to control his pain, but there was little available to treat the cause of it. That is, until the brain pacemaker was invented.

Here's how it works: A part of the brain causes tremors and other problems, when it orders the brain to send out too many impulses. To treat it, two electrodes are inserted, and connected to the pacemaker-like devices, implanted under the skin.

When the devices sense too many impulses, they send out tiny jolts of electricity, which block the impulses.

Fischer says, "Just where these red marks are, that's where they sewed them in." And he can feel the wiring that goes all the way up to his brain.

Not only is this deep brain stimulation helping him walk, but it's put an end to the constant sweating, that came with the spasms.

He used to have to eat all the time too, to compensate for his body working overtime.

Sam feels good after surgery, but he was expecting to feel better.

He says, "My expectations, I just set them higher than what actually happened. I thought I was just going to walk out of there, and throw my medicines away and be done."

He also didn't realize it would take some physical therapy to get his neck muscles working again, to allow him stand up straight.

Doctors tell him it could take up to a year, to really see dramatic results.

Sam wants to thank all the generous people who sent him cards and money, to help pay for his medical expenses. He heard from lots of people he didn't even know.

The batteries in the pacemakers have to be changed every four-to seven-years, but that's it. After the initial surgeries, it's really low maintenance.

He does have to stay away from the microwave oven, just like people with heart pacemakers do.