Feb 11, 2013 9:05 AM by Marissa Torres
More than 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease each year in the United States. And for those living with the disease-- every day is a constant battle. But what if all of that could change with just the push of a button?
"I just wasn't moving very well, I wasn't.. I couldn't get out of the house, couldn't walk the dogs. I couldn't do very many things that I enjoy."
For 5 years Dr.Stephen Palmer says he noticed something was...off. Things that should have come naturally-no longer did.
"The muscle in my right shoulder got to the point, when I was walking, I wasn't swinging my right arm."
At the age of 46 Dr.Palmer was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease; from there, symptoms quickly got worse. The experienced Pediatric Oncologist was forced to retire, and it would be another 5 years until he'd decide to get a surgery that would completely change his life.
Dr. Palmer flew to Phoenix, Arizona's Barrow Neurological Institute to undergo a treatment called "Deep Brain Stimulation." The delicate surgery involves the placement of electrodes deep inside the brain.
Generally, DBS is done with the patient awake- without their medication The procedure has been around for more than a decade, but how they're doing it in Arizona is setting a new curve for the rest of the country.
"What we started doing recently was performing deep brain stimulation under general anesthesia, asleep. Because it turns out a lot of patients who stand to benefit from this therapy are intimidated by the prospect of spending multiple hours awake without their medication," says Dr. Francisco Ponce, director of Barrow's deep brain surgery program at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center.
The electrodes in the brain are then controlled by a device placed just under the collarbone. Once turned on, the tremors come to a halt.
It's what has allowed Dr. Palmer to dramatically reduce his medications and continue a practically, Parkinson's free life.