Saturday, February 4, 2017
DBS - End of the Saga
DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) has had an almost miraculous effect on many people with Parkinson's disease. I am not one of them.
I had a DBS unit surgically implanted April, 2008. It was an ordeal not for the faint of heart. The surgery was done in two stages. First, the wires were buried in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) deep down into my brain stem through two dime sized holes in the top of my skull.with the wires tunneled across my head, behind my left ear.This was an eleven hour surgery for which I had to be awake so that I could tell the doctors which part of the body was tingling with electrical current. They also had to examine my eyes every now and again, which would be rather difficult if I were asleep.
One week after the first surgery, I was back for part two: the battery implant. There is no room in the brain for this gizmo,so the battery needs to be implanted in the chest. I got one of the old style batteries that would need to be replaced surgically when it runs low.. I was told that it might last for two years. Nine years later it was hardly used.
The goal of DBS surgery for me was to even out my daily on/off cycle. I had high hopes for a good outcome. Turned out to have the opposite effect on me. My dystonia (the excruciating muscle cramps and human pretzel syndrome) got worse, the dyskinesia (involuntary dancing), and the bradykinesia (where every movement feels like trying to walk through a cloud of gelatin. Renee -my first programmer - called it 'wonky'.) all got worse and lasted longer. Fortunately my 'on' hours also improved. When I was on, I felt almost normal. A lot of people only ever saw me in this state, because I tried to plan my day around my on times. Even my family doctor rarely saw me in the other stages. I brought my laptop to an appointment once and showed him video of the other stages. He was quite surprised, especially that I was cycling through all of these states every day.
Nine years ago, I threatened Renee that if the DBS made me worse instead of better I was going to move in with her. Her husband was the surgeon who put the damn thing in my head. Unfortunately, they have both retired now. I met them at a Parkinsons convention a couple of years ago. I told Renee that I had turned my DBS off, and she was rather horrified. She asked if Steve (her replacement) knew about this. I have been too afraid to ask if she confronted him to ask why he would let me turn it off.
While writing this update, I noticed that my 5th chapter of the saga for some reason had never been posted on this blog, so I just added it and it may be out of order. Here is the missing link.
The DBS has never made a significant improvement in my Parkinson's symptoms . About three years ago I was filling my pill trays for the week, and my hands were shaking so much that it was difficult to pick up the pills. Turning my DBS up and down made no difference, so I tried turning it off (something Renee had told me to never do!) and the tremors stopped immediately. When I turned it back on -- and the tremors came back. I tried turning it on and off a few more times,with the same results each time.
Since then, I have kept the unit turned off except to experiment now and then to see if it would do any good for extreme symptoms and for on times to see if they would last longer. It didn't seem to make any difference.
So now I decided it was time to call it quits. Last week I had the battery removed. Nine years ago, the battery implant surgery was a difficult ordeal, especially for the first week after the surgery. I was hoping that the surgery to have it removed would\be easier to recover from. No such luck. I have not been sleeping well, so all day I have been falling asleep and having extreme symptoms that are lasting for hours.
The surgeon left the leads in my brain and the wires tunneled down to my chest. He secured the ends in the chest cavity in case I ever want it hooked back up again. Now I am feeling the wire tubes moving around. I wonder if I made the right decision.