Mary Ann’s Story: Cervical Dystonia


Mary Ann_web

Mary Ann, a registered nurse, was the first to notice that her head was tilting ever so slightly to the left. She was able to ignore it for a while, but over time the tilt became more obvious and disfiguring. Friends began to ask what was wrong with her neck. “It affected my job,” Mary Ann recalls. “It was hard for me to drive, because I couldn’t turn my head to the right. I had to hold the steering wheel with my right hand and hold my head straight with my left. It became really challenging.”

Mary Ann saw several doctors, visited a chiropractor and underwent acupuncture. Nothing helped. Eventually a neurologist at the UC Neuroscience Institute diagnosed her condition as cervical dystonia, an uncommon neurological movement disorder involving involuntary muscle contractions that force the neck into abnormal movements or postures. The neurologist advised Mary Ann that injections of botulinum toxin into her neck muscles would effectively treat her discomfort and deformity.

Botulinum toxin comes from a protein derived from the neurotoxin-producing bacterium Clostridium botulinum (pronounced botch-oo-LINE-um), an organism that can cause life-threatening botulism. Although widely used to vanquish wrinkles – it is marketed as Botox, Dysport, Xeomin and Myobloc – Mary Ann was fearful. “I knew it was a toxin, and the thought of having that injected was really, really scary for me,” she says. “I would schedule an appointment with the clinic, cancel it, schedule it, cancel it. I thought I’d somehow manage the dystonia on my own. But it continued to get worse and worse, to the point where I didn’t want to look in the mirror.”

Finally, Mary Ann found a specialist in Chicago who had led studies about botulinum toxin and dystonia. “I went to Chicago to see her, and she looked at my address and said, ‘What are you doing here? You have one of the best in Cincinnati.’ ”

Home again, Mary Ann found the skilled, knowledgeable and compassionate doctor she was looking for in Alberto Espay, MD, MSc. “He was so wonderful, warm and reassuring,” she says. “I needed to have total confidence in my provider, and he’s been that person. Because of his demeanor, I was able to get my first injections. I noticed the results within a week or two, and it totally gave me my life back, because I can do my job, I can go out in public. I look like a, quote, normal person again.”

Mary Ann gets a series of seven or eight injections every 4 months, and it is never easy for her. “I’m always nervous,” she says. “It does hurt. But it’s a small price to pay for having four months of a normal life afterwards. Dr. Espay has been a blessing, a godsend. He saved my life.”

— Cindy Starr

*  *  *

Hope Story Disclaimer – This story describes an individual patient’s experience. Because every person is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Outcomes are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.


This entry was posted in Hope Stories. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Print This Page
  • Make an Appointment: Schedule Now
  • Sign up for our newsletter!
  • UCNI Weekly Blog
  • Hope Stories

    • Troy’s Testimonial: ‘Out of 5 Stars, They Get 6’

      Troy’s Testimonial: ‘Out of 5 Stars, They Get 6’ Troy Sheldon has something to say, and he’d like...
    • Richard’s Story: Ruptured Aneurysms

      Richard's Story: Ruptured Aneurysms Almost three years ago, Richard “Dick” Watson, MD, found himself in an unfamiliar position for a doctor: lying on the operating table instead of standing over it. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was the beginning of...
    • Brian’s Story: Vocal Cord Cyst

      Brian's Story: Vocal Cord Cyst One by one, the symptoms of a throat problem tapped on the pastor’s door. Pastor Brian Tome, leader of Crossroads Church and speaker of five weekly messages to a following of 15,000, acknowledged the symptoms and tried to dismiss them....
    • Lynne’s Story

      Lynne's StorySemiretired and working part-time at a restaurant, Lynne knew something was amiss when she looked at the cash register and then struggled to make her hands produce the correct amount of change. Could she have suffered a stroke? Lynne pushed the...
    • Jim’s Story: Acromegaly / Pituitary Tumor

      Jim's Story: Acromegaly / Pituitary Tumor Four years later, Jim’s story just keeps getting better. Because four years after being treated for a pituitary tumor at the UC Brain Tumor Center, Jim continues to feel better and better. The size of his head has gone down....
    • Scott’s Story: The Epilepsy Ambassador

      Scott's Story: The Epilepsy AmbassadorScott was working his dream job as a commercial airline pilot 10 years ago when his life was forever changed by epilepsy. After coming home from a long run, he complained of nausea and then collapsed with a grand mal...
    • Doug’s Story: Stroke Survivor

      Doug's Story: Stroke SurvivorIt was a weekday evening like any other when a friendly customer service representative named Doug became the ultimate customer. His need? Stroke services, A to Z. Doug, a self-described overweight former smoker with high blood pressure and diabetes, was trying...
    • Jeff’s Story: Ruptured Aneurysm, Airway Reconstruction

      Jeff's Story: Ruptured Aneurysm, Airway Reconstruction Jeff’s remarkable story has two parts: recovery and reconstruction. He doesn’t remember the first part -- the recovery from a ruptured aneurysm. But he vividly remembers the second part -- the reconstruction of his airway. He is living the followup to...
    • Sunny’s Story: A New MS Family

      Sunny's Story: A New MS Family As Sunny knows, one does not defeat multiple sclerosis. The disease is here today, and it is still here tomorrow. But with help from skilled,...
    • Marlene’s Story: Facebook was her Friend

      Marlene's Story: Facebook was her Friend In treating a stroke, time is brain. Because treatment must be administered within 3 to 4 ½ hours to be eff ective, one of the first things a doctor or EMT must do is determine the moment when the stroke...