Deep-brain stimulation proves helpful for high school coach suffering from Tourrette Syndrome

HOUSTON – There are hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from a disorder called Tourrette Syndrome.

The symptoms include involuntary motions and sounds.

One breakthrough procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is proving to be beneficial for one local high school lacrosse coach.

Westside High School girl's club lacrosse team coach, 34-year-old Jamie Blassingame, is living with the disease.

Her current students did not know until she told them during this KPRC interview.

"It was so severe that I was unable to do certain things like drive," Blassingame explained.

Ten months ago, Blassingame had the DBS operation. While awake, Baylor College of Medicine surgeons placed electrodes in her brain and waited for the tics to stop.

"Basically, it functions like a pacemaker," said Shahed, assistant professor of neurology. "The tip of the wire is placed within that nuclear structure of the deep brain and then we can just influence the electricity that's coming out of it and create an electrical field that then affects the way the neuron in the surrounding areas respond and fire and send signals to other parts of the brain."

This is an option for patients who do not respond to other treatments and doctors said it’s only for adults. In most cases, people are not diagnosed or misdiagnosed until around adulthood.
"Usually, the way it starts is with attention-deficit problems and then with the tics and then some folks, about 50 percent of them, will go on the have an excessive obsessive-compulsive type of quality," said Dr. Adriana Strutt, BCM associate professor of neurology.

Completely unable to control the tics, Blassingame said she had to hide from places where they would be considered inappropriate, like church, which she loved to attend. And she was unable to drive even if she wanted to participate in activities. Additionally, she was constantly battling exhaustion from trying to control her movement. She said she was close to taking medical leave from work before the procedure.

"I don't have any urge to do any of that anymore. There is one, I mean, like right now -- I have like an eye blink, but that's the least of my worries. I'm OK with that," she laughed.

Less than a year since DBS, Blassingame said she's finally enjoying her adult life free from tics.

"I look back then to now and I can't believe, it's like a totally different person," Blassingame said.

Several doctors in the Texas Medical Center perform DBS. It's also used for other neurological conditions such as Parkinson's.