Doctors use Botox to help treat debilitating symptoms of stroke

(NBC) - Pouring a glass of juice and then drinking it, putting the dishes in the washer, and walking down the steps all by yourself - these simple everyday movements that most people take for granted were not possible for Sandy Gerber until recently.

Seven years ago he suffered a stroke.

"I lost my right side completely. I couldn't walk, I couldn't talk," Gerber said.

A few weeks ago he says his life changed when he met Dr. John Kelemen, a neurologist who specializes in using Botox, the same drug that is used to smooth wrinkles. Kelemen gave Sandy five injections in the arm and six in the leg.

"After two days, I was able to turn my hand over, which I never did for seven years," Gerber said.

Botox has been used since the 1960s for therapeutic uses but it was only FDA-approved recently to treat spasticity.

"Botox works by blocking signals into certain muscles that are counteracting proper movement," Kelemen said.

Gerber said Botox has made him a changed man at physical therapy.

But not everyone is as lucky as Gerber. Medical experts say Botox may have worked for him, but it doesn't necessarily work for everyone.

Neurologist Jonathan Brisman doesn't want all stroke victims to gain false hope. He says much of the results could be psychological.

"People who have either a heavy paralysis or even more than two limbs involved, those people are less likely to benefit," Brisman said.

For Gerber, the results are clear because he's able to do things he hasn't been able to for years.

"I can't be more ecstatic than I am right now. It took me seven years but it seems to be working," Gerber said.

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