Gail's Story: Goodbye to 15 Years of Pain

“I had an amazing experience. The staff was professional and helpful. I cannot say enough about it."

Fifteen years ago, Gail Simonis started to have intermittent pain in her head that would come and go for a few days, and then subside. This cycle would repeat month after month. She was able to ignore the pain until 2021 when it became excruciating. To find a solution, Gail visited her doctor.

“It felt like an electric shock that was going through my mouth, specifically on the upper right-hand side,” said the 75-year-old. “I was forced to see a doctor when the pain became a daily occurrence, and I could no longer ignore it.”

Gail was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic condition where the pain is felt in areas along the trigeminal nerve in your head, including the eye, cheek, and jaw. Pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia is often described as extreme “electrical” pain, which can last for seconds to minutes. Over time, the pain worsens and is triggered by normal daily activities.

The first doctor who diagnosed her suggested seeing a neurologist who gave her painkillers. When this did not help ease the pain, the Mount Arlington resident did her own research and learned about Gamma Knife radiosurgery as a treatment option.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a minimally invasive, advanced form of radiation therapy that uses multiple focused beams of high-dose gamma radiation to target a specific area without affecting the surrounding brain.

“I did more research and found out that Valley did this procedure. I was thrilled because I used to be a nurse and knew about Valley’s wonderful reputation.”

Two weeks later, Gail scheduled an appointment with Anthony D’Ambrosio, MD, Co-Director of The Valley Hospital Gamma Knife Center. After a thorough evaluation of Gail’s symptoms, Dr. D’Ambrosio recommended Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

“Gamma Knife can be a very helpful procedure for any patient who is failing medications. It is very important to seek out alternative options to medications when they fail, and Gamma Knife, for many patients, has been a life changer,” said Dr. D’Ambrosio.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, along with Chad DeYoung, MD, Co-Director of the Valley Hospital Gamma Knife Center, performed minimally invasive Gamma Knife radiosurgery to treat Gail’s trigeminal neuralgia.

“Once the procedure was over, I went home right away and didn’t have any restrictions. I was told everyone had relief from pain at different times. For me, it took a full six months before it was gone,” said Gail. “The pain grew less and less, and I have not had any pain whatsoever since those six months.”

Gail said she was not nervous about the procedure and was made to feel very comfortable by the nurses and Dr. D’Ambrosio.

“I had an amazing experience. The staff was professional and helpful. I cannot say enough about it,” she said.