I used to tell people considering deep brain stimulation - which involves the surgical implantation of electrodes into the brain - that it gave the typical Parkinson's sufferer perhaps 10 years of relief, during which the symptoms would be relatively minor. The bet - this is, after all, brain surgery that carries some risk of serious adverse results - would be that sometime during that decade, researchers would come up with a real solution. In other words, DBS was a way to buy time. Still, 10 years is no small period, particularly for those who have no other hope.
My experience is typical. I had DBS just under 12 years ago. Things went so well that I became a huge fan of the procedure.
But DBS works on only some Parkinson's symptoms. (Drooling, for example, is not affected.)
For slightly more than a decade, DBS performed wonders on me, eliminating the shakes that had accompanied my attempts to beat back Parkinson's symptoms with medicine alone. But because DBS masks the symptoms while not affecting the underlying disease, in the end it will fail the Parkinson's patient.
For me, the failure was in the form of a one-two punch. The first blow was self-inflicted. In April, one of the batteries powering my neural implants died. That was my fault; one should monitor the batteries and replace them in advance. Because I hadn't, I got a taste of what life would be like without the stimulators.
Swallowing became a problem. Taking my pills became an adventure. Some techniques enabled me to swallow a pill sometimes, while others did not. I became alarmed because I had had a cardiac arrest in 2009 and needed to take my heart pills. What if the swallowing problem became worse?
I wrote an email to my doctors explaining the crisis. Among the medicines I was taking were blood thinners that made surgery to replace the batteries highly risky. The doctors ordered me to go to the emergency room and wait until enough of the blood thinners had passed through my body to i