“The whole procedure took less than an hour. I wasn’t even nervous.”
The year was 2004. Mary Hamilton was driving to the radio station where she worked as a sales manager. It would have been just another day at the office for the then-60-year-old Mary, until a deer jumped in front of her car. Before she could react, the animal was bouncing off the windshield, sending the rearview mirror directly into her face. Amazingly, Mary didn’t even require stitches. She thought she’d gotten a lucky break.
“I went to the hospital, and they picked the bits of glass out of my face and sent me home,” the Warwick, N.Y., resident says. “It was weeks before the pain started. And even then, I didn’t think it was related to my accident. The pain was shooting through my teeth and along the side of my face, so I just thought I needed dental work.”
When the pain persisted after visiting her dentist, however, Mary saw a neurologist, who immediately diagnosed her with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain condition affecting the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensations from the face to the brain. One of the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia is jaw pain, leading many patients, like Mary, to assume they have a dental problem. “My neurologist put me on a high dose of medication,” she says. “The pain disappeared after about 10 months.”
Same Symptoms, Better Outcome
Fast forward to 2015. Mary had been pain-free for more than a decade when, after having some routine dental work, she suddenly began experiencing pain again. “Two weeks after I visited the dentist, I start getting this shooting pain along the side of my face, and I knew right away what it was,” she says. “Once that pain grips you, there’s no mistaking it. I could barely stand to wash my face or brush my teeth.”
Mary again visited a neurologist, who again prescribed her medication. But this time, the pain didn’t let up. Three prescriptions and countless trips to different specialists later, Mary says she’d had enough.
“I couldn’t deal with the pain anymore,” she says. “Every doctor I saw told me to try a different drug, but the drugs weren’t working. Nothing was working. So I took matters into my own hands and began doing a little online research.”
That’s when Mary discovered The Valley Hospital’s Gamma Knife Center. She called to make an appointment, and a few days later she was meeting with the Center’s Co-Director, neurosurgeon Anthony D’Ambrosio, M.D., and radiation oncologist Michael Wesson, M.D.
“My first impression during that initial visit was that I was in the hands of doctors and nurses who really know what they’re doing,” she says. “I felt so relieved and safe.”
Mary underwent Gamma Knife treatment on December 18, 2015. She’s been pain free since. “I was amazed at how prepared everyone was and how they went out of their way to make me feel comfortable,” she says. “The whole procedure took less than an hour. I wasn’t even nervous. I was just desperate for the treatment to get rid of the pain, and it worked. I’m a success story!”