Hudson has dealt with many challenges in his life, including epilepsy, anxiety and OCD, but three years ago, he was also diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, which produces unwanted tics. Like an itch, a tic can be ignored or suppressed for a time, but eventually has to be relieved, says Naomi. Hudson would hold back tics all day at school, or sneak to the bathroom to let them out. Then, he would experience them from the end of the school day until he went to bed. The strength needed to hold back his tics was absolutely exhausting.
Unfortunately, treatment for Tourette Syndrome is very limited, says Dr. Frank MacMaster at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The three options are 1) antipsychotic drugs, which can have side effects 2) cognitive behavioural therapy, which is not always effective in young patients or 3) suffer. However, thanks to donor support, the Alberta Children’s Hospital is home to a pediatric TMS lab. TMS is a non-invasive brain stimulation that has shown positive results in kids with perinatal stroke or depression. Last year, Dr. MacMaster and his team began studying TMS as a possible treatment for Tourette Syndrome. Hudson was one of the first kids involved.
The Brock family met with Dr. MacMaster who walked them through the TMS lab and showed off the hospital’s new TMS robot, which greatly increases the precision of brain stimulation. The family felt immediately at ease with Dr. MacMaster, who validated their concerns, settled their fears and assured them Hudson behaviours were completely normal for a child with his condition. For three weeks, Hudson came to the hospital every day to have TMS. The stimulation was targeted at the overactive section of his brain responsible for the tics and reduced the activity. About a week and a half into the study, Naomi and Ryan began seeing changes in their son. His anxiety was reduced because he had more energy to use controlling it. His tics became fewer and farther between.
Today, Hudson’s tics are reduced by 85-90%, says Naomi. He can sometimes go multiple days without a tic, whereas before, he experienced them for hours on end every day. Naomi says even if the TMS hadn’t worked, Dr. MacMaster’s insight was an invaluable takeaway for her family. She is so thankful to have had access to this level of expertise and equipment.