Medical Minute 3-4: Shocking the Shakes from Parkinson's

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

Driving. Pouring coffee. Flipping through a book. Simple things we take for granted became a big challenge for Resa King.

"For me, it was really intolerable. I couldn't really walk because people thought I was drunk," said Resa King.

At just 39, Resa got the news. Her constant shaking and inability to control her own movements was an early onset of Parkinson's disease. Medicine initially offered relief, but the side effects became just as debilitating.

"You take the medication four times a day, so you go through this valley, rising four times a day."

Desperate for relief, Resa tried deep brain stimulation or DBS.

"The advantage of deep brain stimulation is that you don't take anything by mouth, so it's 'on' all the time, so the patients don't go into 'on' periods and 'off' periods," said Helen Bronte-Stewart, M.D., M.S.E., Associate Professor, Stanford Movement Disorders Center.

Stanford doctors implanted a pacemaker-like device into Resa's chest. Wire from there went into Resa's brain, sending out pulses of electricity that help ease the uncontrolled movements. Like any brain surgery, there's a risk of infection and hemorrhaging. But after DBS, patients often experience less stiffness and tremors. Most are able to cut the medications in half.

While DBS didn't erase all of Resa's symptoms, her close friends saw a change immediately.

"It's unbelievable, what's been done. It's just remarkable," she said.

And for Resa, those everyday tasks became that much more bearable.

"Now, people come up to me and say, 'You're doing so much better.' I say, 'Does it really show that much?' They say, 'Oh yeah, it shows.'"

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500, jcherry@ivanhoe.com.


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