Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Importance of PROPER DBS Programming

The one year anniversary of my DBS surgery came and went without any fanfare. There was no celebrating, no party, nothing. Why? Because I felt awful. I was having mood swings, I was sleeping way too much, I was grumpy and I was depressed. It seemed like all the humor was gone. This had been going on for months and was getting worse. My motor symptoms (tremor, rigidity, slowness) were okay, but I was miserable. I was convinced the surgery or the DBS settings were to blame. I even found myself having suicidal thoughts, but figured I'd screw up and make myself worse. I was beginning to regret having the surgery.

Then, I got an email from another lady with Parkinson's disease who also had the DBS surgery and she was experiencing similar personality changes. So, I went on some DBS Facebook groups that I belong to and asked if anyone had heard of the DBS settings causing depression in people who didn't have it prior. The answer was a resounding YES. My friend Gretchen called me and said I needed to find a good programmer immediately. She even suggested flying to Florida to see her programmer, but I thought I should be able to find someone closer.

Okay, now what do I do? I made an emergency appointment with a neurologist who could adjust my DBS settings, but he said he didn't think my depression was DBS related and suggested a psychiatrist and antidepressants. I tried a couple antidepressants, but they made me feel worse. 

In desperation, I called all the medical people I knew in Tucson, Arizona and the same name kept coming up: Dr. Scott Sherman. Well, it turns out that I was already scheduled to speak to a class of Dr. Sherman's first year medical students at the University of Arizona Medical School about my life with Parkinson's disease. So, I contacted the person who had arranged the speaking engagement and asked him if he would tell Dr. Sherman about my problem and ask if he could see me as a patient.

Dr. Sherman said yes. He actually called me himself and made an appointment for me the same day that I would be speaking to his students. When I saw Dr. Sherman on November 19, 2013, he moved my settings up to a different spot on the stems in my brain and within a few days, the difference was amazing. I had more energy, I felt more sociable, and the depression was gone. My gait was almost normal, the morning tremor in my right hand was gone and the rigidity and slowness I'd get every afternoon was also gone. I still have some speech issues; I drop consonants or speak too softly or quickly, but maybe this can also be fixed with some program tweaking.


Dr Scott Sherman and YumaBev

DBS can be wonderful for people with Parkinson's and I now realize that finding someone who can properly program the unit is just as important (or maybe more important) as finding a great surgeon to implant it. It was a 250+ mile drive each way to find my perfect programmer, but it was well worth it.



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