On Tipping Points & Quality of Life

In my day job, I’m VP of Marketing at INSIGHTEC. What many people at work don’t know about me is that I’m a Knitter. I spell that with a capital K because knitting for me is a way of life. It has taught me so much about things that have nothing to do with yarn and needles – that meeting life goals is a marathon not a sprint, that small actions can have big impact and affect change, that success requires planning but also creativity. With each stitch, I devise strategies, solve problems and calm my craving for immediate results.

In October, I traveled to New York City to accept a prestigious award, the Prix Galien, for INSIGHTEC’s device that is used to treat essential tremor (ET). While there I made an appointment with a ‘knitting doctor’ at one of the local yarn shops, as I needed help with a knitting challenge.

It took only moments to see that the knitting doctor had a noticeable voice and hand tremor. She could thread yarn to a darning needle, but tying a knot required several attempts and her hands were shaking with every stitch. My heart went out to her as she showed me a stitch. We were both aware of the shake but neither of us said a word.

Seizing the moment
Another customer arrived and joined the table of knitters. She had moved to the US from Israel and we started to chat in Hebrew. She asked about my work since it had brought me to NYC. I explained that I was here to accept an award for my company’s advances in focused ultrasound, and told her how it is being used to treat essential tremor. She shared that her son has a tremor and was eager to learn more. How strange were my circumstances? On my left sat a person with essential tremor, while I was speaking to the person on my right in Hebrew about ET, treatment options, Neuravive focused ultrasound treatment and how it works, treatment locations, and more.

What do you do in such a situation? Is it my place to broach the subject? Suddenly, the knitting doctor said quite matter of factly, “What I have is essential tremor, but nobody will make a hole in my brain,” and concluded with “Well, at least I can knit.” It was clear that she was trying to reassure and comfort herself, but I could sense her fear of the day when knitting might be impossible.

Her comments stunned me for a minute as I tried to think how to respond. I have no idea what it means to live with essential tremor, but it’s my job to inform and educate the world about ET and the Neuravive  treatment.  I felt enormous compassion but recognized that I was really just a stranger, a fellow knitter that she met only minutes ago. I quietly replied, “Well, if you ever need it, it’s good to know you have options, and one of them doesn’t require incisions or invasive surgery.”

I left the yarn store with a heavy feeling in my heart and twinge in my gut. It broke my heart to see that the knitting doctor could not teach me a certain stitch because of the severity of her tremor. I knew in that moment that if I had tremor and it affected my knitting, I would definitely seek treatment, simply because I cannot imagine my life without it.

What would be your tipping point? When would you seek treatment to keep doing the activities that give life meaning and bring joy? After all, life is a journey. We should all have the opportunity to live it to the fullest.