Clare's Story

Living with Parkinson's Disease

Clare manages a popular restaurant. It's a job that requires a lot of endurance and hard work. When she was about 37, she began to notice her energy levels dropping. She developed tremors on her left side.

"I didn't pay much attention to it," she recalls. "I just thought I'd worked too many hours and didn't get enough sleep."

Two years later, however, things hadn't improved. A doctor urged Clare to see a neurologist about the severe tremor in her left hand. The neurologist told Clare she had Parkinson's disease.

Clare's doctor put her on medications to manage her tremors. But these medications produced unpleasant side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. Then Clare tried Sinemet*, which helped her symptoms without the side effects.

Unfortunately, the disease progressed over the course of several years and her tremors increased. Additionally, she would "freeze up" and be unable to move for minutes at a time.

Eventually, Clare had to stop working out front at the restaurant, greeting and seating guests. Even helping out in the kitchen became impractical, because she was unsteady on her feet. She sometimes dropped pizzas or fell against the pizza oven, burning herself. 

Parkinson's disease affected Clare's personal life, as well. An avid golfer, Clare was forced to give up the sport she loved. She couldn't go out with friends as often. Most of her time was spent either working or recovering from work at home. Worst of all, she couldn't play with her beloved basset hound Fred or take him on frequent walks.

"The world as I knew it was over," said Clare. "I realized I would have to stop working. How was I going to earn a living? It was kind of scary."

Clare's neurologist told her about Medtronic DBS Therapy for Parkinson's disease. She went to a class on DBS and researched the therapy online.

"I learned about the risks of the procedure," she says. "I knew there could be complications. I could have a stroke. Maybe it wouldn't work at all. But I decided that the possible outcomes were worth it. I just had to do it."

How DBS Helped Clare

DBS 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 Clare experience reduced symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease.1

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.

Clare's DBS lead-implant procedure took about 7 hours. She was conscious for some parts of it, and sedated for others. A couple of weeks later she had her DBS System completed, with the implant of two neurostimulators up near her collarbone.

Clare has since had three programming sessions to get her DBS System adjusted to her exact requirements.

"I'm smiling all the time."

These days, Clare is back on her feet. "I used to be stooped over and had a limp, but now I'm standing straight," she says.

"I'm able to work out front at the restaurant again. I'm having a good time with the employees, and they don't have to cover me. My energy level is better, and I don't have to crash after working 4 or 5 hours."

Clare gets together with friends more frequently, and is back to another favorite pastime: playing poker. And, of course, Fred gets a lot more walks and playtime.

"I wasn't asking for much," Clare says. "I just wanted to be able to go to work and hang out with friends. But I got more than that. I haven't felt this good in 10 years. People I haven't seen in 2 or 3 years just can't believe the change."

"When my brother first saw me walk into a room a few months after my procedure," she continues, "his jaw dropped to his chest. It was pretty cool."

*Sinemet is a registered trademark of Merck & Co., Inc.

References

  1. Activa Therapy Clinical Summary, 2003

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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