In the fall of 2000 I observed my first DBS surgery. The gentleman having surgery was 78 years old and had clearly been suffering for some time. His tremors were severe and he was unable to perform many basic tasks. I was at the foot of the OR bed that was positioned much like a dental chair, with the back raised and the knees as well. The man was asked to hold a cup to his mouth and I was concerned he may chip a tooth. The stimulator was turned on and slowly turned up. Then his tremors went silent and a tear rolled down his face. I felt goosebumps and couldn't believe what I had just witnessed. Events like this have happened often through the years. And every time I still feel the goosebumps.
In the early days of this therapy there was not a lot of science to provide for physicians to refer their patients for a pathway to a better life. I certainly understood evidence based medicine, but I, along with the many specialists in this field, knew DBS was the single most effective treatment for patients suffering from motor fluctuations. I just wanted to scream from the rooftops..."tell your patients there is help!!!" Fortunately, since theat time, I have seen published 4 large clinical studies that met the highest level of clinical evidence.
The other challenge I had faced was having patients referred when the disease had already advanced and put them on disability. It was always discouraging to see patients come for the therapy years after being forced into early retirement. Fortunately, the FDA has granted earlier intervention for patients with troubling motor symptoms and physicians have become more proactive with these discussions and options for patients.
I can honestly say I love the work I do and I am humbled to serve as a representative for this life changing therapy. One of my great joys is listening to patients tell their stories. The greatest impact on a patient considering this therapy is talking to one that has gone through it. It is wonderful to make those connections.
I cherish the friendships I have made and look forward to walking to support the fight against Parkinson's Disease. It's personal and I want to see it brought to an end!