Tourette Syndrome Patient: My Life With a Brain Implant
Before she had a piece of electronics implanted in her brain to treat her Tourette’s syndrome, Kayley Thorpe says her life could be horrifyingly predictable. During her middle school years, when her physical tics were at their worst, “I’d start each morning by punching myself in the face,” she says.
But there were also cruel surprises every day. If she walked into a grocery store, “the question was, at what point would my whole body start to jerk,” she says, “and would I collapse on the floor?"
What unified the routines and the surprises was that they were both entirely out of her control. “You’re like a passenger in your own body,” Thorpe says. “You know it looks crazy. You know other people can control their bodies, but you can’t.”
By the time she turned 19, she’d decided that an experimental brain implant was her only hope. By that point, Thorpe had been living with Tourette’s for a decade. She had tried more than a dozen different medications and many different types of therapy, but nothing reduced her physical and verbal tics enough to make her life bearable. She was using a wheelchair to navigate her daily life. “I’d really run out of options,” she says.