For Susan Duderstadt, the symptoms kept escalating.
Ever-increasing muscle spasms in her face and an eye that kept inexplicably closing and refusing to reopen kept her from what would normally be the simplest of tasks. Month after month, test after test … no explanation surfaced. Her symptoms worsened, she could barely drive her car or even read, and Duderstadt was caught in a seemingly endless diagnostic abyss.
But as two years turned into three, she just knew that certainly someone must be able to figure out what was wrong. Then finally, as she underwent yet another MRI, the offending party appeared: her facial nerve was compressed by an artery at her brain stem. The diagnosis: Hemifacial Spasm, a rare disorder that causes uncontrollable muscle spasms on one side of the face, but which is not usually visible during early CT scans or MRIs.
“My biggest fear was that it wasn’t going to get better,” Duderstadt shares, “and that it would be permanently disabling. I just couldn’t control the spasms.”
Thanks to the expert care of OSUCCC – James neurosurgeon Daniel Prevedello, MD, and his team, however, Duderstadt had a life-changing procedure called microvascular decompression surgery.
From the moment Duderstadt met Dr. Prevedello, she knew she was in good hands. “He was very reassuring,” she says, “and it was evident that he was a brilliant surgeon. I came out of that first meeting very excited – I was never nervous or anxious about the surgery at all.”
And realizing she would face several weeks of recovery before she could go back to her love of all things fitness again, Duderstadt went for a run one more time on the weekend before her surgery. “As I was running, I passed an older gentleman who struck up a conversation, saying he wished he could run but couldn’t because of knee surgery. He said, ‘Enjoy it while you can; you never know when you won’t be able to.’
“I didn’t tell him that I was about to have brain surgery,” she shares, “but his comments stayed with me, so I made sure I enjoyed the run.”
When Duderstadt’s surgery was complete, she was more than a little excited. From the very moment she woke up, her spasms were gone. “That was the first time in three years that my facial muscles were relaxed and unclenched, and it was an amazing feeling,” she says.
She also keeps that elderly gentleman’s advice as her personal challenge. “Whether it’s raining or snowing or 10 degrees outside, I’ll be running each weekend, because I can.”
Duderstadt still keeps a picture of herself from the first day after her surgery. “I have the biggest smile on my face, and I think that picture says it all.”