Batteries? Check. Electrodes? Connected. Patient programmer? On.
All systems clear.
I write this from the as yet untested perspective of a new, improved, and mechanically-assisted hybrid (more Tesla than Prius). To go from a state of near paralysis (after all, the latin name for Parkinson’s is paralysis agitans) to the elation I feel when I sense my body responding to my commands is miraculous. I am grateful to Dr. Benabid, who pioneered Deep Brain Stimulation some thirty years ago at the University Hospital in Grenoble and all the marvelous neurosurgeons who continue to think out of the box to find solutions for people with PD.
Yesterday I underwent my first programming session. Dawn was breaking as my husband and I drove into the city under a clear starlit sky adorned by a crescent moon. I was more nervous for this appointment than for the surgery itself. Why? Because all my hopes were pinned on the success of the post-op programming. What if it didn’t work as well as people who had gone through the procedure claimed?
The session lasted almost three hours. I had been instructed to come in without having taken my medication, so I was in a wheelchair. While the programmer tested my reaction to different voltages, causing temporary symptoms like blurred vision, dizziness, the sensation of being pulled to one side, a profile was created that would allow her to deliver just the right amount of electrical stimulation over the next few weeks, until the next appointment, by comparing the data before and after I took my pills. It is the programmer who controls the device, which is always on, except if the patient cannot tolerate the level of stimulation, in which case it can be turned off.
Sophisticated? You bet.
Later that day, after a short walk to celebrate my mobility, I fell asleep, reflecting on the amazing technology that makes it possible for me to have electrical current running through my body–even as I sleep.