High-tech fix helps teen beat rare condition - FOX 13 News

High-tech fix helps teen beat rare condition

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Take three brothers and a big backyard, and you're bound to see a game of football. But what you don't see is what's making it all possible for 13-year-old Austin Streitmatter.

"They always tell me I'm bionic," Austin told us.

Austin has dystonia. It began back on Thanksgiving Day when he was 9 years old. His father, John, says Austin lost control of his leg at the dinner table.

"We thought, well, it's just restless. He just can't sit in the chair. You know, he's a very well-behaved kid but he couldn't sit in the chair and so we asked him about it and he said, 'I can't stop my leg from shaking.'"

University of Florida video shows how it twisted Austin's once healthy body. Was it scary?

"Very. Very scary," John replied. "At the same time, you feel helpless. You can see the symptoms. They're right there and you don't have any idea how to make them stop."

"He stood up every day for a nine-month period," mom Michelle remembered. "Never sat -- Eating, drinking, going to school, falling asleep at night with John or I sitting next to him, standing next to him on the bed."

Austin says all that standing caused pain.

"It honestly felt like my skin and muscle were gone and I was just standing there and it was being rubbed on by sandpaper. It was like being crushed and drilled by a hundred thousand pounds, it was terrible."

Drugs weren't working. His last hope: An experimental treatment called deep brain simulation.

Stacy Merritt coordinates clinical trials at the University of Florida Center for Movement Disorders. Surgeons place pacemaker-like power packs in the chest and run leads to the head.

"Those are implanted into the brain and they are implanted close to or affecting a particular target, depending on what the neurosurgeon wanted to do with the target," she explained.

Experts believe the controlled electrical shocks help a long list of conditions, like Tourette's, epilepsy, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. Even obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.

John says as soon as they were able to turn on Austin's device, "We saw improvement almost immediately."

"When she turned it on, his arm just started to move and I could tell he was not in control of that motion. The device was controlling it. It would have been weird for me to do a cartwheel in the office, but I was on the brink!"

Austin's stimulator stays on all the time. Using a remote control, he can increase voltage if he needs to.

Just 10 days after his surgery, Austin surprised everyone on his basketball team when he began to play.

"When Austin took the court, not a dry eye in the place, just all those parents and kids tearing up, watching this miracle unfold, and Austin being completely oblivious to it. Austin had no idea that he was in the center of the show, he was out there playing with his friends, and happy to be back," Michelle recalled with tears in her eyes.

But that day on the court would become a day Austin would never forget. "That is when I knew it worked, when I made the basket and I came back and I could backpedal. That's when I knew something changed, and my life was totally different now."

A son and family are grateful for this high-tech fix.

"He can sit, he can play basketball, football, he can write. All the stuff he was able to do he's able to do all of it, it's amazing," John added with a smile.


University of Florida

Austin's doctors, Dr. Kelly Foote and Dr. Michael Okun, co-directors of the University of Florida Health Center for Movement Disorders & Neurorestoration


Anorexia Deep Brain Stimulator

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