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An Inspiring Patient Story: Albert, His Facial Spasms and a Cure

Aaron Cohen-Gadol, M.D.

September 22, 2021

An Inspiring story of Albert: Hemifacial Spasms

In about 2014 or so, I started experiencing twitching on the right side of my face. I wasn’t sure what it was. It would come and go over several years. It would be there for a while, and then it would go away, so I didn’t think much about it until it started getting worse and worse. I tried acupuncture, I tried chiropractic, I tried acupressure, all these things to try to alleviate some of the issues. None of it worked. Eventually I went back to my neurologist, and he said that among the options, he did not recommend surgery. His recommendations were to treat the symptoms, not the problem. Later, I went to another neurologist, and he laid out all the options as well. He said that, knowing what I do, taking drugs is probably not a good option.

Most physicians did not even know about the diagnosis of hemifacial spasms, and this delayed my care. The treatments they offered were confusing and would not address the root of the problem. They did not appear to be familiar with the surgical treatment that offers a chance at cure.

Faith in a Surgeon

I told my neurologist and neurosurgeon that I had worked with Dr. Cohen for years on different projects that we had done, and I thought that maybe I should talk to him. We decided that probably the best thing to do, based on my age, was to go ahead and do the surgery. It was really scary to think about. In the first couple of days after I had scheduled my appointment for the surgery, I was almost literally sick to my stomach thinking about this. There were implications for things that were serious. But, I felt that I was young enough and in good shape to heal; I can’t live with this. If I have another 30 or 40 years left of life, how am I going to live with these spasms all the time?

This was in January 2020, right before the pandemic started, and I was going to have to take 6 weeks off from work. I came in for surgery on a Tuesday morning, saw Dr. Cohen, and the next thing I knew I was in recovery. I was in the ICU for a short period of time, and then I was in a regular hospital room for about a day. They got me up and walking that afternoon. So, I was in surgery Tuesday morning, and I was home Thursday night. Right from the beginning, my facial spasms were gone. Life was very different.

I remember Dr. Cohen coming in my hospital room and asking me, “what about your spasms?” I hadn’t even thought about it. I was like, “oh my gosh, they’re gone!” My experience with Dr. Cohen was great. Knowing him on a personal level was very good. I never thought that I’d have someone who I knew personally to do this sort of surgery on me. I don’t think I could have asked for better care. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I can’t thank him enough for getting me back to normal. I say a prayer every day thanking Dr. Cohen for his efforts and talents and that I’ve gotten back to a good life. The Neurosurgical Atlas has enabled so many other surgeons to advance the care of their patients for similar complex neurosurgical cases.

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