Parkinson's disease can impact every aspect of a person's life as they battle the shaking, stiffness and difficulty moving. When medications are not enough or the side effects are too great, a deep brain stimulator can get the person back to comfortable living.
Walking without stiffness or swaying is a big step for 50-year-old Keith Royer of Carlyss, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2005. "Somebody noticed my arm was stiff and then after while I would sit there and my arm would shake, just sitting there," he said.
Royer had to leave his job as a crane operator because of the uncontrollable muscle movements. Neurologist Dr. Reynard Odenheimer with Neuro Associates says that is common for those with the progressive disease of the central nervous system. "It usually presents most typically with tremor and stiffness in walking problems," he said.
Medications can be effective in treating the symptoms of those with Parkinson's disease, but they can also carry unwanted side effects - anything from nausea, involuntary muscle movements, hallucinations and sleepiness. "It makes you tired," said Royer, "at the end of the day you're just tired."
Royer was maxed out on his medication dosages and wiped out from the side effects. That is when Dr. Odenheimer recommended a deep brain stimulation implant. "It delivers electrical stimulation to an area of the brain," he said, "and it's considered a non-destructive surgical procedure which can control the symptoms."
The small, pacemaker-like device sends electronic signals to the part of the brain controlling movement. "I have a battery pack in my chest I0 can feel," said Royer, "other than that you don't really feel anything else, but it stops you from shaking."
For Royer, the improvement was instant. "Right away, as soon they turn on the machine," he said.
It has been three years since Royer had the implant and he says it has given him the confidence to share his experience with other Parkinson's patients. "If you're the type of person that really doesn't like taking pills, it's the best way to go because it really helps you out," he said, "you don't shake."
Deep brain stimulation is also effective for people with Tourette's, chronic pain and depression.
The National Parkinson Foundation Chapter of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas is raising funds to support Parkinson's programs here through the Downtown Lake Charles Crawfish Festival April 12th-14th. Click here for more information.
On research dollars for Parkinson's disease: just this week, President Obama unveiled a $100 million initiative to map the human brain for the first time.
The hope is that it can lead to new treatments for brain disorders like for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and epilepsy, while creating new technologies and jobs in science. It is still up to congress to approve the money for this project.