An Aussie woman who has one of the worst cases of Tourette syndrome doctors have seen has revealed how she’s managed to turn her life around.
Bianca Saez was first featured on 60 Minutes 11 years ago when she was 16 years old.
She had uncontrollable, violent tics and outbursts of swearing. It was so bad she was placed in a mental health unit.
Bianca got close to a cure for her condition when a Brisbane neurologist, Professor Peter Silburn offered to perform deep brain stimulation surgery on her.
The professor said Bianca’s case was probably one of the worst cases of Tourette’s in the world and certainly the worst case he had seen.
The Sunshine Coast resident was the first patient in Australia to have the surgery to try and cure her Tourette’s.
Electrodes were placed deep in her brain to reset faulty neurons that were causing her tics.
Afterwards she was free of symptoms for two weeks, meaning she was able to walk without lashing out and to talk without swearing.
“I saw an amazing difference in how the way I felt and I could write on paper again and I could read books without ripping them up,” she told 60 Minutes.
Unfortunately the change wasn’t permanent as she got a staph infection, which meant the electrodes had to be removed.
Bianca’s symptoms returned and while they were not as bad as before, she still has moments when she can’t help lashing out and even calling her mum a “f***ing dog”.
“It makes me upset because I don’t want to hit anyone,” Bianca says.
Despite her symptoms though, she has managed to move on with her life.
Now aged 27 years old, she has a boyfriend of six months and has moved into her own home.
Her home has been reinforced to withstand her wildest tics. There is hardwood around the walls so she can’t punch holes in them and plastic windows. All the glass in the bathroom has been removed.
Asked whether she sometimes longed to experience life again without Tourette’s again, Bianca said she realised she had to let go of the idea of a cure.
“I had it, I lost it. I have to get over it and move on.”
While Bianca would love to get a job, able to drive a car, and dreams of being able to travel one day, she believes that by embracing what she can do, and accepting what she can’t has given her power over her Tourette’s.
“Look if I was offered a cure tomorrow, I don’t think I would take it because I’ve been given this really bad Tourette’s for a reason, so I’ve had to do something good with it, I guess,” she said.
A video of her story has been viewed more than 27 million times on 60 Minutes’ YouTube channel and Bianca would love to start her own channel one day to reach even more people.
“I just want to help people in the future,” she said. “If I’ve been able to handle badness like you guys saw in the last 60 Minutes I can handle anything.”
Prof Silburn said while the surgery on Bianca hadn’t given her a cure, it has helped others.
“I think Bianca should feel very proud of herself because it was a very brave thing that she did and it has enabled us to help about 23 other people with Tourette’s who are doing well,” he said.
Bianca says it’s been easier to deal with her Tourette’s because of her loving new boyfriend and her family.
While life with Tourette’s was still hard, she tried to be positive.
“I’m very resilient … if I wasn’t resilient I don’t think I’d be here right now,” she said.