Six Years of Pain Ends with Surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital
Lt. Daniel Brooks, patient; Eric Peterson, MD, UHealth/Jackson neurosurgeon; Iahn Cajigas, MD, University of Miami/Jackson neurosurgery resident
Dan Brooks, an Indian River County firefighter and father of four, is not one to complain easily. Six years ago, he began experiencing pain on the side of his face. At first, it came and went, but over the years the searing pain grew more intense and occurred more frequently.
“It would come out of nowhere,” said the lieutenant who lives in Sebastian. “Sometimes I would be in a restaurant or even at a fire and suddenly I’d be on my knees. The other guys would say, ‘Let’s just get him back to the firehouse’.”
Brooks said it sometimes felt like a burning sensation or an electric shock. “Anything would spark it,” he said, “a breeze, eating, talking.”
He went to several doctors near his home, many of whom took MRIs, but found nothing. He tried neurologists, pain management, acupuncture, a chiropractor, and a periodontist, thinking the debilitating pain was stemming from a toothache. Nothing helped and no one could seem to find the source.
In October 2014, Brooks suffered an ‘attack’ that came and did not ease up. “I had just 30 minutes without pain that entire day and just couldn’t take any more. I’ve heard of people ending it all with this and understood why,” said Brooks.
He went to another neurologist who suggested he see a colleague in Miami, Eric Peterson, MD, a UHealth/Jackson Memorial Hospital neurosurgeon.
At Brooks’ first visit, Dr. Peterson knew exactly what was causing Brooks’ pain. An MRI confirmed it: trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic neuropathic pain condition that affects the nerve that carries sensation from the face to the brain. It is often caused by a loop of a brain artery that compresses the nerve as it enters the brain stem, behind the ear.
“I ordered a special MRI sequence that looks specifically at that area for evidence of nerve compression,” Dr. Peterson said. “As I suspected, there was clear evidence of an artery compressing the nerve.” The neurosurgeon explained that “it’s an illness that is unfamiliar to many physicians, and the surgery requires special expertise.”
Peterson performed a three-hour microvascular decompression surgery on March 4 at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he made a small incision behind Brooks’ ear. He used a high-powered operating microscope to visualize the small artery and gently lift it off the nerve, then placed several tiny pillows of felt to protect the nerve from the artery.
“It’s completely changed my life,” said Brooks, who is now back to work at the firehouse. “I just want everyone to know that help is available. No one should have to go through this.”
April 14, 2015, 11:00 a.m.
Jackson Memorial Hospital
Clark Diagnostic Treatment Center, room 259
Corner of Northwest 12th Avenue and 19th Street
Miami, FL 33136
Media can park outside of the Clark DTC.
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Jackson Health System
1611 N.W. 12th Avenue Miami, FL 33136