In this series, guest blogger Susan Mollohan of Derry, New Hampshire will share her experience with deep brain stimulation surgery (DBS). This is her second post, highlighting the weeks leading up to her procedure. Weíll post updates on Susanís story to the FoxFeed blog as her medical journey continues. Read her first post here.
Please note: While a powerful treatment for many people living with Parkinsonís, this therapy does not treat all symptoms and isnít suitable for all patients. Read more about deep brain stimulation.
Am I making the right decision? Thatís the question I asked myself on the night of June 2, the day before I was scheduled to meet with my doctors to find out if I could proceed with DBS surgery.
After months of doctorsí visits; countless hours of testing, both physical and neurological; and an MRI, my evaluation was complete. My physicians had reviewed my information and were ready to make a formal recommendation on whether or not I was eligible to receive DBS. This was the moment I was waiting for, but I was still nervous and wondered if Iíd be able to go through with the surgery if I did qualify.
The next morning, I learned I was eligible to receive DBS. After speaking with my doctors and asking my remaining questions, I felt reassured that the surgery would go well and I was doing the right thing.
My surgery is set for June 30, and Iíll be getting a buzz cut beforehand to prepare (my doctor said he can do a great job with a hair buzzer, but I politely declined Ė Iíll be visiting my stylist!). My head will be fitted with a halo device to keep it still and the surgeons will implant thin wires called electrodes into my brain in the areas that control movement. Iíll be awake during the process to ensure the electrode placement is correct.
On July 14, the wires will be connected to a small battery-powered device implanted in my chest called a pulse generator (much like a pacemaker), which sends electrical signals through the wires into my brain. A few weeks after this procedure, my doctor will program my pulse generator. Weíll gradually tweak my settings and medications until we find the combination that makes me feel the best, a process that can take several months to a year.
My son asked me if I was nervous about my surgery, and I said I was, particularly about the halo device, which will attach to my head through screws in my skull.
ďThatís one thing you can cross off your bucket list,Ē he replied.
ďIt was never on it!Ē I said.
"Well, if you add it to your list, then you can cross it off!" he said back.
Parkinsonís changed what I thought my bucket list items would be, and although my life has played out differently than I expected, I know I still have many good years ahead of me. Iím taking charge of my health so I can live the life I want.
DBS is right for me because it will give me increased quality of life for a longer period of time. One doctor told me I might only be able to drive for another year or two if I donít have DBS, and that hit me like a ton of bricks; thatís not the lifestyle I want to lead. My doctors hope the procedure will lead to a 30 percent improvement in my symptoms and a decrease in the amount of medication I need to take each day. This September will be the eighth year I participate in the New England Parkinson's Ride fundraiser for The Michael J. Fox Foundation in Old Orchard Beach, Maine ĖĖ I canít wait to bike those 50 miles again!
Stay tuned as we post more on Susanís journey with DBS in the coming weeks.