Seven years ago, Sandy Gerber suffered a stroke that paralyzed the entire right side of his body. He couldn’t move his arm, his leg, or even talk. After years of physical therapy, Gerber only regained partial use of his right side. Until he tried using BOTOX to treat his paralysis.
"He gave me the injections, five in the arm, six in the leg,” said Gerber.
Dr. John Kelemen of Island Neurological Associates in Plainview, New York treated Gerber. According to Dr. Kelemen, BOTOX has been used since the 1960’s for therapeutic purposes but it was only recently FDA-approved to treat spasticity, which is what Gerber suffered from. Although it is a deadly toxin, when used correctly for medicinal purposes, medical experts say it has few complications and is safe.
"Botox works when there's muscle over activity,” said Dr. Kelemen. “By blocking signals that are counteracting proper movement."
“After two days, I was able to turn my hand over which I never did for 7 years,” said Gerber. “I was able to take a fork and eat my food. I was able to sign my name."
But according to other medical experts, other stroke patients may not have the same response to BOTOX treatments as Gerber.
Dr. Jonathan Brisman of Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola said, "For the right person it could be terrific. But not all patients are going to have that kind of tremendous response."
Dr. Brisman said in cases where patients suffer more severe paralysis, BOTOX may not help as much and many times, the perceived success of a treatment could be psychological.
"People who are more open-minded and more likely to respond positively,” Brisman said. “They may view it as good for them."
The effectiveness of the BOTOX could diminish as early as three weeks, at which point Gerber would have to have more injections. But now that he is able to do things he has not been able to for years, Gerber is a true believer.
"I can't be more ecstatic than I am right now,” said Gerber. “To tell everybody that I’m doing this. It took me 7 years but it seems to be working."