Procedure a bold stroke for Glenwood Springs artist
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Mary Noone can’t wait to find out what she’s been missing all these years. Then again, it might also be a good time to slow down a bit and reflect.
Those are some of the competing emotions the longtime Glenwood Springs resident, artist and Summer of Jazz co-founder is having these days.
Noone recently completed a successful medical procedure, known as deep brain stimulation (DBS), to control the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that had taken over much of her life for the past 18 years.
The tremors are gone, or at least manageable now, thanks to electrodes implanted in her brain and connected to a pacemaker-like device inserted in her chest. She uses a remote control to stop the tremors whenever they begin.
Also absent now is the sometimes wild flailing, called dyskinesia, that was caused by the medication she had previously been taking ” 18 pills a day worth ” to control the symptoms.
“Now I’m taking nothing,” she said in a recent interview while sitting, relaxed as can be, at her husband Bob Noone’s law office in downtown Glenwood, where she is the office manager.
“I’ve had (the shaking) for so long that to not have it I’m almost giddy,” she said. “I feel like I’m 18 again.”
Part of her wants to go out and do all the things she feels like she hasn’t been able to do for so long, she said.
But she also knows she has to get used to her new ” make that former ” self.
“There is a lot of mind-body connection and coordination I still have to work on,” she said. “So I’m actually trying to slow it down some.”
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 35, six years after she and Bob started the Glenwood Springs Summer of Jazz concerts, she suffered through the debilitating neurological effects of the disease.
But she managed to cope, including raising three children, working, running the Summer of Jazz, and becoming an accomplished painter.
She had known about DBS and the promise it held for some time, but hesitated. The procedure has its risks, including possible death. And, not everyone who has Parkinson’s is a qualified candidate.
“For years Bob had been saying to me, ‘You need to get it done,'” she said.
It wasn’t until last year when she was flying to Seattle to see her daughter Vallee’s art show that a little fate intervened.
Normally when flying she made sure she got an aisle seat so that she wouldn’t bother other passengers with her shaking and flailing. This time she got stuck with a middle seat, and when a man sat down next to her she apologized.
“Sorry, I have Parkinson’s,” she told the gentleman.
“Yes, I know that,” he replied. “I’m a neurologist.”
They struck up a conversation, and the subject of DBS came up.
“He really encouraged me, and said this was something I needed to do now,” Noone said.
With her three children ” Claire, 20, Vallee, 23, and Charlie, 25 ” grown and in college, she figured it was time.
She and Bob consulted with the neurological staff at CU Medical Center in Denver, and Mary was eventually referred to Dr. Steven Ojemann after a series of evaluations to determine if she qualified for the procedure.
Before undergoing three separate surgeries on Feb. 2, 9 and 18, the Noones attended President Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.
“Any kinds of crowds like that, I really needed a lot of help to get through,” she said.
Upon her return, it was down to business.
“It was very scary, especially that first operation,” she said. “I was saying goodbye to the dog, and the cat. … I was afraid of hearing the drill go into my head. …
“When you come out of that first one, you can’t believe you’re still alive. It’s very emotional.”
Follow-up surgeries were done to insert more electrodes, and then the remote control device.
“It does such a number on your head, you really come out not the person you thought you were,” she said. “My kids didn’t even recognize me.”
She will be having regular check-ups for several months, but so far she has been given a clean bill of health.
“It’s been a very interesting three months for the Noone family,” said husband Bob, whom Mary recalled having the initial reaction after her surgeries, “There you are! I’ve been waiting for you to show up for 18 years.”
“Anybody who knows Mary knows she has an amazing passion for life, but that Parkinson’s has taken center stage in her life,” Bob said. “Her humor and courage are what sustained her and our family through it.”
Snow usually comes and goes in this part of the state. A forecasted storm is expected to stick around for a while. Forecasters are calling for snow to persist throughout the weekend in the high country, with a prospect of a couple of feet of powder by the time the storm starts to diminish on Monday.