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'A true miracle' | Brain surgery brings life back to WWL-TV's Garland Robinette

"You can’t visit with friends when you can’t talk. You can’t go to a restaurant when you’re shaking so badly you’re throwing food all over the place," Robinette said

NEW ORLEANS — Former Eyewitness News anchor and reporter Garland Robinette has shed some light on his health struggles and the brain surgery that gave him his life back.

"I had trouble feeding myself.  I had trouble brushing my teeth," Robinette said.

The 76-year-old well-known TV personality has been a household name in the
New Orleans area since the '70s, ever since he came into our homes for two decades from the WWL-TV studios.

But in 2015, Garland noticed a slight tremor while typing. In 2017, he retired from WWL radio.

"I thought, 'You’re getting old,' and as I progressed, the tremor progressed," Garland said. "Then it hit the voice."

The man who spent 30 years of his life on TV and radio, giving viewers and listeners information through the microphone clipped to his lapel, then bringing us his passion through the fine dexterity of his hands and paintbrushes, became a recluse.

"You can’t visit with friends when you can’t talk. You can’t go to a restaurant when you’re shaking so badly you’re throwing food all over the place," Robinette said. "It was kind of like a nightmare."

Garland Robinette was diagnosed with essential tremor. It used to be called palsy. 

It’s from abnormal communication among areas of the brain. It’s what made Katharine Hepburn’s head and voice shaky. 

His doctors said it may have been caused by life-saving chemotherapy he got 15 years ago for an inflammatory disease of the blood vessels.

In June, Robinette traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to get a brain stimulator implant to stop the shaking. 

"It sounds scary because you’re awake and you can hear them drilling the holes," he said. "You can feel the little computers being pushed in your brain."

Since then he's gotten a remote control to turn the stimulation from the implant up or down. The battery pack in his chest can be recharged with a device that looks like a collar, just like the wireless charger for a cell phone. 

Robinette told WWLTV's Meg Farris that he got his life back after the surgery.

"I really did. I mean it was unreal," he said. "It’s a true miracle. It’s hard to describe."

Robinette said he's been writing a memoir for his daughter about the unexpected twists and turns in his life including his experience during the Vietnam War, as a janitor, as a main TV news anchor, as a radio host and working for a Fortune 500 company.

"The Vietnamese taught me the phrase 'sauck-mau,'" Robinette said, phonetically spelling the phrase. "It means 'walk into the pain,' and that’s the key. When it’s bad, don’t try to run from it. Embrace it; because you’re getting ready to grow."  

Robinette says he still has to go back to the Mayo Clinic for an adjustment to the stimulator, but as of the publication of this article, he said barely notices any tremors.

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