Learn about a treatment for Parkinson’s disease in Edwards on Thursday, Feb. 26
If You Go ...
What: Parkinson’s Support Group.
When: 5 to 6 p.m., 4th Thursday of each month.
Where: Trinity Church, Edwards.
More information: RSVP by Wednesday by calling Carly Reitmann, the Eagle County Healthy Aging program coordinator at 970-328-8896.
If you’re old enough to remember Howard Cosell’s microphone shaking, you know what Parkinson’s disease looks like.
But what if there was a way to make the tremors stop or at least control them?
This week, the local Parkinson’s support group will hear from a neurologist who has been successfully treating Parkinson’s patients with deep brain stimulation.
It’s sort of like a pacemaker for the brain, said Dr. Seth Kareus, a neurologist based at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. Kareus specializes in conditions affecting the nervous system, such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.
People with Parkinson’s have abnormal electrical function in the bottom of their brain. Deep brain stimulation helps correct those electrical functions, Kareus explained.
Kareus has been doing this seven years. The technology has been around 15 years.
It’s good for tremors and Parkinson’s, but not everyone with Parkinson’s is a candidate, Kareus said.
“For people who are good candidates, we have a very high success rate.
It does not cure Parkinson’s, but it can control it and enable you to live with it,” Kareus said.
What it does
Deep brain stimulation therapy is a treatment for movement symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including shaking, stiffness and difficulty moving.
A small pacemaker-like device sends electronic signals to an area in the brain that controls movement. These signals block some of the brain messages that cause annoying and disabling motor symptoms.
It’s best if used in partnership with medications, said Medtronic, one of the companies that manufactures the device.
Electrical stimulation is delivered to targeted areas on both sides of the brain to help relieve symptoms on both sides of the body.
Electrodes are connected by wires to a type of pacemaker device (called an impulse generator, or IPG) implanted under the skin of the chest below the collarbone. Once activated, the device sends continuous electrical pulses to the target areas in the brain, blocking the impulses that cause tremors.
A success story
Dr. Gary Rein lives in Denver and skied 40 to 60 days a year, mostly on Mary Jane, and as hard as he could. He contracted Parkinson’s years ago and had the Medtronic device installed. Now he’s skiing again. That’s the short version. The real version is way more interesting.
Rein is a dentist and started getting tremors.
“I was having a terrible time in life. I had started in a new office and the tremors just got worse and worse and worse,” Rein said.
His doctors did all kinds of tests and tried all kinds of medications. They finally decided Parkinson’s was causing the tremors. Semet helped calm the tremors, but it got worse and he could barely speak, freezing up for 10 or 15 minutes. Then he started falling over for no reason.
Medications helped his balance, but the speech problems persisted.
Finally they decided to go with deep brain stimulus, implanting the Medtronic device.
The surgery can be a little rough. His doc asked, “Are you going to be a weenie about this?”
He promised he would not be, and he wasn’t.
These days the surgery takes about three hours, and you’re in for an overnight hospital stay.
Rein has 3.02 volts being generated in his brain and feels great. His balance was back, so he tried skiing.
“I can ski moguls, steeps and trees like I could 10 to 15 years ago. It was awesome!” Rein said. “People come up to me and ask, ‘What happened to you? You look ready to rock ‘n’ roll.’”
He feels so good he asked his doctor to turn it up a little. She thought about it for less than one second and said “No!”
He’s 65 and sold his practice to a guy he really likes. He’s in the middle of taking a year off, and the new owner said if he wants to come back for a couple days a week, he can, which he might.
He started running, he does a lot of walking with his wife and he skis Loveland because it’s about 30 minutes from his house.
“I get on the ridge and look out at the Continental Divide, then ski all the way down,” Rein said. “It’s incredible, the feeling that I could go off the cornice and ski all the way down.”
He wears a brain bucket because he has a lot to protect. And his wife bought it for him, and he promised his doctor.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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