At the age of nine, Brooke started losing control of her body. One day her shoulder dropped and soon walking became a struggle. At 14, she was no longer able to feed herself and remained doubled over, unable to straighten up.
Watch Brooke’s incredible journey
Born with a rare and degenerative movement disorder called dystonia, Brooke suffers from unrelenting muscle cramps that twist her into uncomfortable positions and movements. Occasionally, these muscle cramps became life-threatening full body spasms, or dystonic storms, that saw her rushed to the RCH Emergency Department.
“It’s the worst form of muscle cramp you can imagine and no matter what you do, you can’t release these cramps. Brooke would be exhausted from them, but she couldn’t get any relief. After one episode she looked at me and said ‘I’m broken’,” said Sue, Brooke’s mum.
Her RCH neurologist, Associate Professor Andrew Kornberg, tried numerous medicines and treatments, but nothing worked. Brooke’s only option was Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a surgical treatment that disrupts the abnormal brain activity which causes dystonia.
DBS consists of an electrode implanted into a patient’s brain and a pacemaker-type device called a pulse generator, which produces electrical impulses via the electrode that override the abnormal brain activity.
Brooke is only the third young person in Australia to receive DBS and, though her initial results are remarkable, the effects are cumulative over a five year period.
“Brooke has gone from being totally dependent on her family to doing things that she hasn’t done in six years, like walking,” said A/Professor Kornberg.