In 2008, I started getting the shakes. I couldn’t sleep. I feared I had Parkinson’s disease.
I saw a doctor in my hometown. He said I didn’t have Parkinson’s, but I made an appointment with Dr. Jeff Kraakevik at OHSU for a second opinion—who did diagnose me with the disease.
We began treatment with medication. It helped initially, but we had to keep increasing my dosage. Even then, my motor skills were declining: I had tremors in my arms and legs. My mind felt thick. My feet became numb.
I practically lived in my recliner. I was existing, not living.
Dr. Kraakevik brought up Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). I didn’t think I was ready, but he suggested I’d be an ideal candidate. My wife, Marla, and I did a lot of research on DBS, and talked to other people who’d had the surgery. They said not to wait, it’s an unbelievable difference.
Even then, I still wasn’t sure my Parkinson’s was bad enough. But as part of the screening process, I had to go off my medication for a day; I was shocked by how advanced it had become. I could barely bend or sit properly. Marla and I looked at each other and shook our heads, amazed. Five years after I was diagnosed, it was time.
We met with Dr. Kim Burchiel, who would be doing my DBS surgery. We liked him: He was very knowledgeable and thorough. It made me realize this was the right thing to do.
The thing I like about OHSU is that no one rushes you. You can tell they are concerned, and they treat you like a person — not a number. I tell everyone, “If you’ve got problems and they seem to be going nowhere, go to OHSU. They’ll get it figured out in no time flat.”
After the surgery to implant the DBS device, before they’d even turned it on, I felt better already. By that night, my speech was stronger and the shakes had diminished. A few days later, the DBS battery was inserted: That was a quick, outpatient procedure. After about a month, I had my DBS activated and programmed by the wonderful Shannon Anderson.
I felt great. Normal, honestly.
Since DBS surgery, I’ve been able to reduce my medication eight-fold. I feel like I have a new lease on life. I’m 53, with a lot of hope for the future. No more living in the recliner! I can get on the floor and play with my grandkids. That’s made it all worth it.