Memorial Surgeons Solve Michigan Woman's Excessive Sweating Problem
March 2005 — If "who you know" is as important as "what you know," then Betty is certainly grateful for knowing her cousin, Paula Gyorok, MSN, ARNP, CNRN, who is the Program Coordinator at Memorial Hyperhidrosis Center and nurse practitioner at Memorial Regional Hospital, Memorial Hospital West and Memorial Hospital Pembroke. Paula helped Betty find a permanent solution to a lifetime of suffering from hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating from her hands, feet and underarms.
A Long-Standing Issue
"When I was two years old, my mother noticed that my hands and feet were wet all the time," recalls Betty. "My mother's cousin had a sweating problem, too, but my mother just figured I had some sort of allergy." Still, her mother took Betty to see a number of doctors in their native Michigan area, and followed various treatment plans — all without success.
"It was awful," Betty says, as she remembers the problems that plagued her. People called her "Sweaty Betty." Teachers made hurtful comments about the wet papers she turned in. Betty hesitated to slow-dance or hold hands with young men, for fear of embarrassing wetness. Typing and piano-playing were problems, too, because her hands would leave puddles of water on the keyboards.
Always athletic, Betty chose track events because of her inability to get a strong grip on a tennis racquet and her problems with chalk in the gymnastics arena. When playing just nine holes of golf, she had to change her sweat-soaked gloves three times. When driving a car, she had to hold a towel over the steering wheel to prevent slipping. When styling her hair, she had to wrap the blowdryer's handle in a towel to avoid electrocution.
Change for the Better
While Betty was in Michigan dealing with her condition, her cousin Paula was working with surgeons at Memorial Healthcare System who had solutions to this difficult problem. Ian Heger, MD, neurosurgeon on the medical staff at Memorial Regional Hospital, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Memorial Hospital West and Memorial Hospital Pembroke, and Richard Cartledge, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon on the medical staff at Memorial Regional Hospital and Memorial Hospital West, had been trained in an innovative surgical procedure called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS). Performed under general anesthesia, the surgery involves the removal of the sympathetic nerve chain to help alleviate excessive sweating in the hands, feet and underarms. The sweat glands are then no longer "turned on" by nerve signals from the spinal column. The procedure takes approximately two hours to complete and leaves just three tiny scars in the armpit.
"I knew that this was the answer my cousin, Betty, had been searching for all her life," says Paula, "and I knew that Drs. Heger and Cartledge were the surgeons who could help her." She called Betty with the exciting news.
At first, Betty was hesitant, as were many of her friends. "People would say to me, 'You've lived with this problem for 43 years. Can't you just live with it for another 43 years?' But they don't know about the day-to-day issues — I do. And I also knew that I trusted Paula. If she trusted the doctors, so did I."
In April 2004, Betty became the first patient at Memorial Regional Hospital to undergo ETS surgery by Drs. Heger and Cartledge. The results were immediate. "I wasn't sweating anymore," Betty says. "I kept touching my hands to my face because I couldn't believe that they were dry.
"I wish they'd had this surgery available when I was young," she continues. "It has totally changed my life. There are so many things I can do now that I couldn't do before." That includes wearing open-toe shoes and silky fabrics, and opening an art gallery a week after surgery.
For more information about Memorial Hyperhidrosis Center, call
(954) 265-9970. If you would like a referral to a physician, call Memorial Physician Referral Service toll-free at (800) 944-DOCS. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.