Diagnosis: Parkinson's Disease
Treatment: Deep Brain Stimulation
EvergreenHealth neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Nora leads the region in DBS procedures, giving patients like Ron C. freedom from movement disorder symptoms.
On a nice day, you’re likely to find 66-year-old Whatcom County resident Ron C. kayaking in Bellingham Bay, soaking up the Pacific Northwest sunshine and breathing in the salty sea air.
He launches the kayak and reels it into shore himself, working steadily with the current.
But just a few years ago, it was impossible for Ron to get out on the water - or even leave the house.
BALANCING SYMPTOMS AND SIDE EFFECTS
Severe tremors brought on by a 2011 Parkinson’s disease diagnosis were a constant reminder of his limitations, which made even the simplest tasks difficult to manage.
Like many people living with Parkinson’s disease, Ron was consumed by the balancing act of taking enough medication to relieve his symptoms, while tolerating the dosage’s severe side effects.
He was managing several prescriptions just to cope with what he described as a dismal quality of life.
But that all started to change in 2015 when his neurologist referred him to a seminar led by EvergreenHealth neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Nora on deep brain stimulation (DBS), a procedure that surgically places tiny wires, or electrodes, within critical areas of a patient’s brain.
Although the treatment sounded daunting, Ron was optimistic DBS could bring him some degree of relief.
CONTROLLING SYMPTOMS WITH DEEP BRAIN STIMULATION
According to Dr. Nora, Ron proved to be an ideal candidate for DBS, and they began the process of preparing for the surgery.
“Before I found Dr. Nora, I was really struggling,” Ron added. “But I would do it all again—it was worth it to be where I now, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
“Deep brain stimulation works by blocking abnormal nerve signals that cause tremor and other Parkinson’s symptoms, offering patients living with neurological conditions significant relief when medications are no longer as effective,” Dr. Nora explained.
The electrodes are controlled by a battery-operated neurostimulator, a device similar to a heart pacemaker that is surgically placed under the skin in the patient’s chest. The device sends electrical stimulation to the electrodes placed in areas in the brain that control movement, effectively reducing the signals causing tremors.
For Ron, the relief was almost immediate. He noticed positive results quickly after his first procedure on his right brain hemisphere, and soon returned for the same treatment on his left brain hemisphere.
“I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Nora and his team at EvergreenHealth,” Ron said. “Not only are they experts at what they do, but I could also tell they cared about every aspect of my health, not just my Parkinson’s disease. And now, I feel like life is worth living again.”
Today, Ron takes only a fraction of the medication dosage he once did, and has no trouble getting out of the house to do things he loves. Everything he once took for granted, from being able to walk to the grocery store to kayaking, he now appreciates more than ever before.