Depression Doctor

Reporter: Clare Brady

It's not just the stares...it's the crippling inability just to be quiet or still. Jamie Furlonger's Tourette's sees him twitch and grunt and he can't make it stop.

But a trial breakthrough operation spelt freedom for Jamie, it silenced his unwanted companion, Tourette's which he's had since he was a boy. "It's changed my life so much. I can go to the movies now and not be stared at, I can walk down the street and not be looked at, it's really changed my life for the better", Jamie said.

It's called Deep Brain Stimulation, a procedure about 400 Australians turn to each year when they've run out of options. And it seems to be working. About 150 Parkinson's sufferers also opt for it to help with symptoms -- it's not a cure, but in 80% of cases is certainly helps.

And now it's lifting the curtains from the darkest of lives. Ground breaking trials are giving happiness back to those with deep depression. "It's transformed my life; it's given me a life I didn't have. Life before then, I was in a state of limbo for six years", said Kathy Cleary.

Kathy had tried everything to stop her deep depression. "Life was really grey and flat, day after day everything was a chore. I felt isolated from my family, I didn't want to go out and see anyone, it was just a black grey horrible period of my life", Kathy said.

In the tunnel of no hope, Deep Brain Stimulation seemed her only light. Kathy stayed awake -- as is its practise for the six hour surgery -- and put any chance of future happiness in the neurosurgeon's hands.

Dr Richard Bittar is clearing the grey clouds of acute depression with this psychosurgery now available in Victoria. It is banned in New South Wales. "The target point in the brain is very, very small and very deep. The tiny bright spots are really only one millimeters and a half in diameter. It's close to the centre of the brain and very deep", Dr Bittar said.

It works by implanting two fine electrodes into the brain, connecting those wires to a pace maker like device and then those specific parts of the brain are stimulated with electrical currents.

The rest of the nation is on board with the psychosurgery but New South Wales has turned away from its use for deep depression. Dr Bittar believes it's lawmakers are trapped in the past, gun shy due to past, unrelated mental health scandals the State endured. As a result, many years on, it's still too scared to allow its people to keep up with medical times.

Medical degrees line Dr Bittar's office wall -- and you'd want them to as this brain surgery allows little room for error. Although impressed by the results for Parkinson's disease and treating Tourette's, Dr Bittar is wisely cautious about its use for acute depression. But none-the-less he is still impressed. "Trying to educate doctors because it's amazing how many doctors and specialists don't know about this type of surgery or its potential benefits", Dr Bittar said.

Kathy Cleary is the poster girl for DBS's use against deep depression, a condition hundreds of thousands of Australians struggle with every day. She can't pinpoint when she plunged into her dark days, all she knows is it's a relief to see an end to them -- even if it meant travelling from NSW to Victoria for the surgery. "I'm not a robot I'm not sitting there with a smile fixed on my face, my kids keep saying it's so wonderful to have Mum back", Kathy said.

For further information:

Precision Neurosurgery 1300 773 247