Chris's Story

Living with Parkinson's Disease


Chris, Parkinson's disease patient

For many years, Chris worked as a delivery truck driver. He was a physically active person who played sports in high school and kept busy as a handyman and a gardener.

In his late 40's and healthy, Chris noticed something wrong when he was out walking with one of his three daughters. "My arm swing on my right side just quit," he recalled. "I started dragging my foot. I had no idea what was happening."

A doctor determined that Chris's symptoms pointed to Parkinson's disease and suggested that he go see a neurologist. The neurologist confirmed that Chris had Parkinson's disease.

Chris's symptoms grew worse over time. Medications helped somewhat, but he still experienced a great deal of "off" time.

Within a year of being diagnosed he lost the use of his right hand, which meant he couldn't write. He also developed slowness and rigidity, cramping, and involuntary head movements. With a few more years he was taking larger doses of medications that caused dyskinesias (involuntary movements).

Chris stopped driving and started loading trucks. "My life basically became just work and sleep," he says. Then Chris's neurologist told him about Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy for Parkinson's disease. He attended a seminar on DBS and decided to have the procedure.

How DBS Helped Chris

DBS Therapy uses a surgically implanted medical device much like a cardiac pacemaker to deliver electrical stimulation to precisely targeted areas within the brain. The stimulation is delivered through a medical wire called a lead, which is tunneled beneath the skin.

Stimulation of these areas blocks the signals that cause the disabling motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease. The electrical stimulation can be noninvasively adjusted to maximize treatment benefits. As a result, individuals like Chris experience reduced symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.1

On the day of his procedure, Chris spent a long day in the operating room and stayed that night in the hospital. A few weeks later, the Medtronic DBS system was turned on. After some programming adjustments, Chris noticed his body loosening up. The next morning he felt even better.

On his first morning back at work loading trucks, Chris felt like a new person. "I could tell that I wasn't going through the normal problems in the morning," he says. "It usually would take an hour and a half of cramping and walking weirdly. That was mostly just gone. I developed a lot more confidence at work."

Risks of the Procedure and Stimulation

Risks of DBS Therapy can include risks of surgery, side effects, or device complications. Implanting the neurostimulator system carries the same risks associated with any other brain surgery. Chris did experience some pain at the site where the battery was implanted.

"Life is possible, even with Parkinson's."

For Chris, the best part about DBS Therapy is that he has regained the ability to do tasks that Parkinson's disease took away. He's frequently out in the garden picking vegetables, and he's back out on the driveway, playing basketball with his daughter Trisha.

Chris returns to his neurologists for periodic programming sessions. Although Parkinson's disease is progressive, DBS can be adjusted to lessen some of the progressive symptoms of the disease. "DBS has revived my optimism that life is possible, even with Parkinson's," Chris said. "My Parkinson's isn't gone. But it's under control."

This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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