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When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast: What is deep brain stimulation?

Deep brain stimulation .
Deep brain stimulation . Alberta Health Services

In this episode of When Life Gives You Parkinson’s, I talk with three friends about deep brain stimulation.

Becca Miller is contemplating it, David Sangster just had it and Jim Smerdon had it five years ago.

“You hear everything,” said Jim Smerdon of Vancouver, B.C. when I asked what he heard when doctors drilled a hole through his skull and into his brain.

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“It was the clearest memory I’ve ever had of anything of my life.”

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When Life Gives You Parkinson’s

Jim was awake for the first five hours of deep brain stimulation to treat his Parkinson’s disease.

My neurologist told my wife and I that if my motor symptoms and dyskinesia from carbidopa-levodopa do not level off in six months, we will add my name to the DBS evaluation list. The wait time for evaluation in British Columbia is three years and currently there is just one doctor who performs surgery here.

WATCH: B.C. to expand access to deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s patients

“Deep brain stimulation is considered the most commonly-performed surgical treatment for Parkinson’s disease,” said Jamie Hamilton, senior associate director of research programs for the Michael J Fox Foundation.

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Hamilton explains that DBS is an invasive procedure which implants electrodes deep in the brain. The electrodes are controlled by a neurostimulator, which is surgically implanted into his chest and sends electric impulses to specific targets in the brain.

Becca, a single mom of a seven-year old, says she’s scared to have DBS while her daughter is so young. But she understands the benefits.

“That sounds just amazing,” she said. “It feels like in some ways, you know, in some ways it’s like a last resort and in other ways it feels like a reset. And a gift of time.”

READ MORE: This surgery can change the life of Parkinson’s sufferers. In B.C., it comes with a 2-year wait

For David, it has been life changing. He’s back to playing with his kids, being an equal partner to his wife and playing piano.

“It’s amazing,” says David. “I can be there when my kids need me — every time. [I can] take them to school, drive the car, and make them cereal. It’s also being there for my wife and being more of a person than I used to be.”
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Jim was able to completely come off the carbidopa-levodopa for a year. But his wife Deana Grinnell says he’s back up to eight or nine pills per day. That’s fewer than the 20 or so he was on prior to surgery, but the dyskinesia is back.

“His disease is progressing,” Deana said. “It’s affecting his balance. His speech is getting softer. It’s just marching on.”

If you have a comment or question about the podcast, you can email us: parkinsonspod@curiouscast.ca

We invite you to add your voice to the show and leave a message for us here: www.speakpipe.com/WhenLifeGivesYouParkinsons

If you have a comment or question about the podcast, you can email us: parkinsonspod@curiouscast.ca

We invite you to add your voice to the show and leave a message for us here.

Follow me, Larry Gifford

Twitter: @ParkinsonsPod

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Instagram: @parkinsonspod

Follow co-host and producer Niki Reitmayer

Twitter: @Niki_Reitmayer

Special thanks to…

Thank you to…

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Becca Miller

Jim Smerdon and Deana Grinnell

David and Jane Sangster

Jamie Hamilton, Senior Associate Director of research programs for the Michael J. Fox Foundation www.michaeljfox.org

Rebecca Gifford, my amazing wife.

Henry Gifford, Captain Awesome (Our son).

For more info on our presenting partner Parkinson Canada head to www.parkinson.ca.

The toll-free hotline 1-800-565-3000

Or follow them on Twitter @ParkinsonCanada

Thanks also to our content and promotional partners

Parkinson’s IQ + You– A free, series of Parkinson’s events from the Michael J. Fox Foundation

Spotlight YOPD – The only Parkinson’s organization dedicated to raising awareness for Young Onset Parkinson’s disease.

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