Driving, pouring coffee, flipping through a book. Simple things we take for granted became a big challenge for Resa King.
"For me, it was really intolerable," Resa King, who suffers from Parkinson's, told Ivanhoe. "I couldn't really walk because people thought I was drunk."
At just 39, Resa got the news. Her constant shaking and inability to control her own movements was an early onset of Parkinson's disease. Medicine initially offered relief, but the side effects became just as debilitating "You take the medication four times a day, so you go through this valley, rising four times a day," Resa said.
Desperate for relief, Resa tried deep brain stimulation or DBS.
"The advantage of deep brain stimulation is that you don't take anything by mouth, so it's 'on' all the time, so the patients don't go into 'on' periods and 'off' periods," Helen Bronte-Stewart, M.D., M.S.E., director of the Stanford Movements Disorders Center at Stanford Hospitals and Clinics, said.
Stanford doctors implanted a pacemaker-like device into Resa's chest. Wire from her chest went into Resa's brain, sending out pulses of electricity that help ease the uncontrolled movements. Like any brain surgery, there's a risk of infection and hemorrhaging, but after DBS, patients often experience less stiffness and tremors. Most are able to cut the medications in half.
"That translates into being able to walk faster, take bigger strides, and have a more predictable lifestyle," Dr. Bronte-Stewart said.
While DBS didn't erase all of Resa's symptoms, her close friends saw a change immediately; and for Resa, those everyday tasks became that much more bearable.
"Now, people come up to me and say, 'you're doing so much better.' I say, 'does it really show that much?' they say, 'oh yeah, it shows!" Resa said.
The therapy typically works best in the mid stages of the disease and does not help patients with speech or cognition problems.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Stanford Hospitals & Clinics
Movement Disorders Center