Medical procedure changing East Texas Parkinson's patients lives

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Imagine being awake during your own brain surgery. For the thousands of East Texans suffering from Parkinson's Disease, deep brain stimulation has become a life-changing reality. Now, the breakthrough medical procedure may not just be for Parkinson's patients, anymore.

Donna Hayes shared her own personal medical miracle memory lane.

"All of a sudden, the wires go in and they hit the right spot...It's like you go to heaven, your body's just finally relaxed," said Hayes.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 10 years ago.

"I could not go to the bathroom by myself, I couldn't feed myself, I couldn't be at home alone, I couldn't drive," she said.

She underwent deep brain stimulation surgery last September and was awake as doctors drilled two holes into her head.

"You feel that little indent...I feel that, right there...and then feel the wires here," said Hayes.

Opening the holes helped doctors figure out which part of her brain needed to be stimulated to ease the tremors. Once the target area is identified, electrodes are implanted during a separate surgery. Wires are then fed to a tiny pacemaker-like device placed in the patients chest. The pacemaker regulates the brain waves, keeping Hayes tremor free. The difference is day and night.

"Giving medications by mouth is a great idea, except, it's like taking a can of paint in a room, putting a cherry bomb in it, and saying I'm going to paint the walls," said Dr. George Plotkin, a neurologist. "You're going to paint a lot more than the walls...This is the first treatment that actually gets the whole thing from the target."

Plotkin says patients with Parkinson's are not the only ones benefiting from the procedure. It is also being used to help treat patients with obsessive compulsive disorders and other movement disorders. The overall goal is restore some sense of normalcy.

"They get back to being themselves," he said.

It is something Donna Hayes is already appreciating.

Dr. Plotkin says 1 to 2 deep brain surgeries are performed each week. More than 1.5 million people suffer from Parkinson's Disease.

This weekend, the East Texas chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association will host its annual walk-a-thon at Rose Rudman Trail. The even kicks off around 10 a.m.

For registration information, click here.

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