DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation): Helping You Decide

Updated: Mar 2

My DBS Story to Help You Decide

Part One:

Flashback: 13 years ago. I am living in Costa Rica and experiencing unexplained symptoms. A physical exam by a PCP yielded a referral to a neurologist. After a few taps with a rubber mallet, a penlight in my eyes, watching me draw a spiraling circle and then take a few steps, he announced, “Usted tiene la enfermedad de Parkinson.” My junior high school Spanish did not equip me with the requisite skill set to ask any meaningful questions of the good doctor even if I had possessed a shred of mindspace at that moment. After presenting me with a sample bottle of Sinemet, he instructed me to call his office for refills and to make an appointment to see him in six months when I checked out with the cashier. Numb, I fought back tears. I knew precious little about PD at that point but I knew my life had changed and not for the better. We drove home in silence. I had no idea what had just occurred.

Flashback: 12 years ago. My symptoms worsened. The classic tremors never appeared but my walking and balance deteriorated, exacerbated by living where sidewalks and smooth surfaces were uncommon. I searched, to no avail, for information or to find someone who could help me understand what was happening to me. My Sinemet regimen kept increasing as did the daily nausea, apathy and withdrawal. Slipping into depression, I began to isolate myself from everyone and everything and spent my days sleeping in a darkened room. I wasn’t me any more.

Flashback: 10 years ago. New symptoms of painful stiffness and slowness of any body movement appeared. I was transferred to a second Costa Rican neurologist who wondered out loud if I truly had PD or something else, yet he continued treatment by making a large increase in the Sinemet regimen and adding a new drug, called Mirapex, which is an agonist. My symptoms worsen and the depression and isolation deepen. Side effects of the agonist appear and relationships with my family and friends began to spin out of control.