ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Like a kid on Christmas, Don Gialanella practically ran out of his St. Pete workshop, excited to show off the best present of his life - the fact his hands are not shaking.
“It’s like you hear about rebirth, and new life, ya know these clichés. It is not a cliché, it’s really for real,” said Gialanella.
Holding his hands straight out in front of him, he beamed as they stayed still. Turning them over from palm up to palm down, he was in total control of steady hands.
“It’s just overwhelming,” he said with a smile.
Gialanella was diagnosed with Parkinson’s six years ago.
“Six years, six years of hell,” he said.
There is no cure for Parkinsons, and for Gialanella, his diagnosis has been central tremor dominate. In fact, his tremors had gotten so bad, it would ultimately shake his whole body.
But now, on this Tuesday in November, he stood there perfectly still.
“It doesn’t cure Parkinson’s. But for me, I am cured. I am a new man,” said Gialanella.
After a few joking tai chi moves, he went back into the workshop to show off the other things he can now do with ease.
Screwing a nail into a board, he points out that his tremors had really taken a lot away from him as an artist.
“The tremor eclipses everything in your life. It makes everything difficult,” said Gialanella.
This past Summer though, his life path was forever changed when a neurologist suggested he get some tests done at the Cleveland Clinic to see if he would be eligible for a High Frequency Ultrasound procedure; a procedure that could possibly lessen his tremors.
The tests showed Gialanella would be a good candidate, and in mid-November, he traveled back to the Cleveland Clinic for the four-hour procedure. It is technically a brain surgery, but it does not involve any incisions. Gialanella is placed into an MRI machine, and through a guided, focuses ultrasound part of his brain where the tremors originate is essentially burned.
“I felt a serenity, and a tranquility, like a relaxation came over my body. And you get, you have a dizzy feeling,” said Gialanella, when talking about what it was like.
The results come in real time, and after each sonication doctors run the patient through a series of dexterity tests and it is apparent if any change has happened.
“The tremor reduction came down to 97 percent, at the last sonication,” said nurse, at the Cleveland Clinic.
It took seven rounds, but Gialanella’s tremors were practically gone by the end.
“His treatment went very smoothly from beginning to end,” said Dr. Sean Nagel.
Dr. Nagel said this is a newer type of procedure being done on Parkinson’s patients, and that it works best on people with Parkinson’s who have central tremors.
“His (Gialanella) was pretty severe,” said Dr. Nagel. “Probably one of the more severe ones we have seen, and it really is pretty incredible that we are able to take someone who has got such a severe movement disorder, and nearly eliminate that.”
Just days after the procedure, Gialanella said he was still in disbelief over the success.
“Every day is like a new adventure. I am just trying not to overthink it and go with the flow,” he said. “I am trying not to get ahead of myself and live in the moment. Really, I am taking it day by day because it is so remarkable.”
As for how long this will last, that is unknown. Dr. Nagel said some people’s tremors return. This procedure has only been around for ten years, so patients like Gialanella are the ones setting the standards for success.
“It’s such a gift, it really is,” said Gialanella.
Dr. Nagel said Gialanella will likely have to do a follow up MRI down the line, just to see his continued progress.