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A reason to smile, new procedure relieves effects of suicide disease


There is a condition nicknamed "suicide disease" because the pain is so great, sufferers don't want to live. It's pretty rare, it effects 150,000 people per year, and women over the age of 50 are most susceptible.

A procedure at Sacred Heart Hospital is giving these patients new life.

Imagine stabbing pain every time you smile, not being able to kiss your husband because it hurt too badly. That was Amy McGraw's life for 12 years.

"I didn't want to smile, didn't want to talk. It was hard to work, I didn't want anything touching this side of my face," McGraw explained.

The pain was coming from her TN nerve, that is short trigeminal neuralgia. It's often called "suicide disease" because the pain is so intense you no longer want to live.

McGraw said, "The pain is so intense, the stabbing pain. You just don't want to do anything."

It would flare up twice a year and last for about 3 moths each time. She tried everything to make it go away.

She visited countless specialists and tried acupuncture, but the pain was still there. She said the hardest part was people not understanding, even her husband.

"You can't see anything," McGraw said. "I don't look any different. I'm trying to explain to people why I'm not smiling, why I'm not talking, you can't see anything going on."

Doctors report that it's often sporadic. A blood vessel puts pressure on the TN nerve and that's what causes the pain.

Some people deal with this year round, while others have flare ups during the cold weather, but they really don't know why it pops up during the winter.

Around a year ago, Amy decided she couldn't take it anymore. Through a lot of research she found neurosurgeon, Dr. Sam Critides and the Gamma Knife procedure.

It's a non-invasive procedure that uses targeted radiation to damage the nerve thus ending the pain.

Dr. Critides said, "A way of delivering of very focused radiation using about 192 beams of radiation that are converged on a target."

Dr. Critides placed this frame around her head and was able to zap it. The pain immediately went away.

She said with tears in her eyes, "It has made me be a normal person again. I haven't had pain. I can function smile, eat, talk, brush my teeth.

She has not had any pain since she had the procedure.