Diagnosis: Parkinson's disease
Treatment: Comprehensive care
Shelly Krishnamurta didn’t have a choice when it came to the diagnosis – Parkinson’s disease – that changed her life.
But she did have a choice when it came to living with it, thanks to the Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Care Center at EvergreenHealth.
Open since 2000, the Center is named for former Washington Governor Booth Gardner, who lived with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disease of the nervous system that increases in severity over time.
Shelly was one of the first to take advantage of all the Parkinson's Care Center has to offer.
“It is the only comprehensive movement disorder center in the nation to have all the therapies housed under one roof,” explains Dr. Alida Griffith, one of the Center's board certified neurologists who specialized in Parkinson's disease. "It offers medical care as well as rehabilitation therapies, nutrition experts and social workers. Those therapies can help keep Parkinson’s disabilities at bay for many years.”
Dr. Griffith adds: “Most of my patients are able to live productive, active lives.”
Not all symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be treated with medication, which is where the comprehensive nature of the Parkinson's Care Center is an advantage.
“The depression of Parkinson’s disease doesn’t always respond to antidepressants,” Dr. Griffith states, “but we’re also able to provide counseling and design exercise programs. Drugs often don’t address problems with balance and gait, but we can help with physical therapy.”
The Parkinson's Care Center is a regional resource for both patients and physicians. Patients can receive all of their care at the Center, or the staff can design a care plan to be implemented under the direction of the patient’s own physician. That is particularly helpful for the many patients who come to the Center from across the western states.
The Parkinson's Care Center also participates in industry-sponsored clinical trials for Parkinson’s disease, and partners with the UW in Parkinson’s-related research.
Shelly was just 36 years old when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“At first, I was bitter,” she recalls, “but then my father sat me down and said, ‘Shelly, you have it; you have to deal with it.’ That was the hardest thing, accepting that the disease could be controlled but not cured. The Parkinson’s Care Center really helped me with that adjustment.”
Medication controlled her symptoms initially, but after 10 years, medication side effects became more troublesome.
That’s when Dr. Griffith recommended Shelly for Deep Brain Stimulation, in which a neurostimulator – similar to a heart pacemaker – is implanted in the brain. It delivers electrical stimulation to block the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremor and other Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
Shelly had the surgery and marvels at the difference in her quality of life. The constant pain is gone.
“I can’t say enough about the Parkinson’s Care Center,” she enthuses. “They know me personally and have taken really good care of me. They have guided me in the right direction.”