Alzheimer's disease Brain Featured Mental health Patient stories

Patient story: Focused ultrasound and Alzheimer’s disease

Sally McMillan, participant in world-first trial investigating focused ultrasound in treatment of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

I started getting lost in familiar places.

I’d lose my way going to visit my relatives or stores that I’d always shopped at. I suddenly couldn’t find my way to work – the same school I’d taught at for nearly 25 years.

I began misplacing things at work and home. I struggled with everyday tasks that used to be second nature to me, like following a recipe and cooking.

It wasn’t like me at all.

My family became concerned and brought it to my attention. After consulting with my doctor, going through testing and visits with a neurologist, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.

Living with Alzheimer’s disease

The doctor immediately wrote a letter, saying that I was unable to work at this time. My driver’s license was also taken away. I was disappointed, concerned and worried about our future.

Now, I have to rely a lot on my husband and my children for many everyday tasks.

I miss driving, teaching and everyday experiences.

Focused ultrasound study for Alzheimer’s disease

My daughter and son-in law are both paramedics and had researched the focused ultrasound trial for Alzheimer’s disease at Sunnybrook. We discussed it in length as a family and I decided it would be a good study to be a part of.

I am the first Alzheimer’s patient in the world to be part of the study investigating the safety of using MRI-guided focused ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier in multiple regions of the brain.

I realize this trial may not help me, but I hope that it can help someone down the road.

What it is like to be part of the focused ultrasound study

On the first day of the trial, I had to have my head shaved so that the doctors could place a specialized head frame on me. I had to be inside the MRI for several hours as the team used focused ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier.

I didn’t feel anything through the process and even though I was in the MRI for awhile, I thought about my family to keep me going.

I had the procedure once every two weeks, over a six-week period for the trial, and have been back for follow up tests. The staff at Sunnybrook have been wonderful, supportive and helpful through this process.

So far, I feel fine. No side effects felt after the procedures.

Hope for the future of Alzheimer’s

It means so much to be a part of this trial. I have had so much love and support from my family and friends.

I hope that the doctors and researchers can find a way to slow down, stop and cure Alzheimer’s disease for future generations.

About the author

Sally McMillan

Sally McMillan

Sally McMillan is the first patient with Alzheimer’s disease in the world to be part of a ground-breaking trial at Sunnybrook as researchers investigate the safety of using MRI-guided focused ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier in multiple regions of the brain.