For more than 20 years, Beka Serdans has suffered from a rare neurological movement disorder called dystonia. Beka, an intensive care nurse who often works with Dr. Oz, self-diagnosed herself with the disorder and is now seeking treatment from neurosurgeon Dr. Mike Kaplitt. Beka and Dr. Kaplitt talk with Dr. Oz about the disorder and its symptoms.
Beka says she was a teenager when the first symptoms of dystonia appeared, including a chronic hoarse voice. Then, facial ticks and weakness of the neck muscles began bothering her and progressed over time. Her body's abnormal movements and twisting—similar to Parkinson's disease—and incredible pain were almost too much to handle, Beka says. "Most people are disabled, depressed, isolated, and it is horrible," she says. "It's a horrible disease really because it ruins lives, ruins goals. It ruins hopes and dreams—really everything, your essential being."
Beka says she was faced with doctors who tried to tell her the symptoms were stress related or all in her head. After her self-diagnosis, Beka eventually turned to dystonia expert Dr. Kaplitt, who surgically implanted a pacemaker-type device deep into Beka's brain. "It sends little electrical pulses into targeted areas of the brain to try to change the electrical firing or information flow in circuits of the brain," Dr. Kaplitt says.
Beka says the procedure was intense but a positive experience, and so far the device is helping to control symptoms of the disorder. "It's a long procedure; people are often unprepared for it," she says. "[But] I knew I went in with high expectations, almost thinking it would be a cure."
Dr. Kaplitt says it's still unknown why dystonia occurs in nongenetic cases like Beka's. Much research is still needed to find a cure for the disease, but for now Beka is able to continue her work as an ICU nurse without many of the dystonia-related symptoms.