Cooper Wilson recently sat on the bench at the Minnesota Wild Hockey game as part of the franchise’s “Bench Buddies” program. For Cooper’s mom, Denine Wilson, meeting hometown hockey heroes wasn’t the highlight of the night. The real highlight for Wilson was seeing her son walk to the ice and take his seat on the bench by himself.

As recently as two years ago, Cooper was barely able to button his own shirt, let alone have the strength and energy to attend a hockey game.

Cooper has dystonia, a progressive condition that causes uncontrollable, twisting and repetitive movements. Through Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, Cooper and his family had tried every standard treatment option available to improve his movement and quality of life, including medication, physical therapy, and botulinum toxin treatment.  But his condition worsened.

“I could see us moving forward with him being wheelchair-bound and with limited mobility,” remembers Wilson. “I could already see us going down that path.”

But Cooper’s family didn’t give up, and neither did Gillette. Gillette is one of a few hospitals in the nation that has FDA approval to offer pediatric deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat dystonia. The success of DBS surgery has created a new path for Cooper.

Gillette’s world-class medical team has one mission: improving the lives of kids who have disabilities and complex medical conditions. This mission—Gillette’s driving force—helps patients achieve new levels of independence, health and happiness.

Immediate Results Offer Hope
During the DBS procedure, Cooper’s surgeon implanted a medical device—called a neurostimulator—under the surface of his chest. In addition, a soft, flexible wire—called a lead—was implanted in his brain. The neurostimulator helps regulate Cooper’s movements by sending electrical signals through the lead to certain areas of the brain. The device sends stimulation 24 hours a day, every day.

Although DBS has been around for 30 years for adults who have Parkinson’s disease, it’s relatively new in its application for kids who have dystonia. And it’s working for Cooper.

“We could see the results immediately,” says Wilson. “Right away after deep brain stimulation, his arms and hands were better. He was able to adjust his belt and shoes better.”

DBS helped build Cooper’s abilities, and Gillette helped build his confidence. “The doctors here at Gillette make me feel that I am not the only one with this disorder, and they make me feel like I can do anything,” says Cooper.

Although he doesn’t play hockey, Cooper does play soccer. “I used to worry about whether he’d be able to walk,” says Wilson. “Now I worry about how he’s going to fit in on the soccer team. And it’s nice. It’s nice to have normal worries.”

The only person more determined than Gillette and his family to keep Cooper as independent as possible is Cooper himself.

Click here to watch KSTP-TV's recent story about Cooper.

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