My father has Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed at a very young age of 40. Now he is 65, living with Parkinson’s for 25 long years. This was the very reason I decided to become a Parkinson’s disease specialist.
It has been a long journey for him with many ups and downs. Initial 20 years were smooth with no major issues and his symptoms were quite well controlled with the drugs he was on. Problems started in the last 5 years. He started having what are known as ‘sudden off periods’. The effect of medications would wear off suddenly within minutes making him stiff, slow, and almost unable to move. Even after taking the next dose, it would take another 30-40 minutes for him to get going. And this was happening every day, many times a day and was a never-ending struggle. Even the nights were not easy. He would frequently wake up in the middle of the night due to stiffness as he could turn in bed. Getting out of the bed for the washroom was also a big task.
In July 2019, I returned to India after finishing my 3 years of training in Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders from Canada. Now was the time to take the big decision. This decision was about deep brain stimulation surgery, commonly known as DBS. DBS is a surgical procedure for Parkinson’s disease. Two electrodes are placed in the brain targeting a small area known as the subthalamic nucleus. This nucleus is then electrically stimulated with a pacemaker implanted under the skin of the chest. DBS is done in Parkinson’s disease when symptoms are not well controlled with medications. So now was the time to get it done. He had already reached the point where any further change in his medications would not help. He needed this surgery and I knew this would change his life for good.
There was an initial hesitation, after all this was a BRAIN surgery. I explained to him the procedure in detail. He was going to be on the operating table for at least 6 hours with all his medications stopped the night before. His major concern was surviving this long period without his drugs. For many days we had this discussion on the merits and the challenges of the surgery before it was decided, to get it done.
We got an early appointment for the surgery and it was scheduled in a week. Finally the day arrived. I was with him in the operating room for the whole procedure. It took 7 hours to complete the surgery and he was later shifted to ICU for observation. The next day he was shifted to his room. Everything went as planned, the procedure was smooth and electrode targeting was spot on. The programming of the pacemaker was done over period of one month. The response to DBS was nothing short of amazing. Tremors stopped, his walking was so much better and the stiffness disappeared. I reduced his medications to just 2 tablets a day instead of 12 -14 he was on before the surgery.
Four months after the surgery, my mom and dad were planning to take a vacation in Kerala. The last vacation they had was nearly 10 years back, so this was big for them. My dad planned everything meticulously. It was a week vacation with 4-5 hours daily travel by road. They were visiting 4 different places in Kerala, all in a period of just 7 days. I was a bit apprehensive at first as it involved a lot of travel by road and I thought this could get very tiring for him. But it all went well. Once he was back, I call him up to ask about his vacation. He said this was one of the best vacations he had in a long time. I very delighted to hear this. I thought, truly this is his second life.
- Dr. Aditya Murgai
Consultant Neurologist and Movement Disorders Specialist
Clinical Fellowship in Movement Disorders, Western University, Canada
PDF in Movement disorders, UTHSC, USA