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Deep Brain Stimulation helped to Center Brenda’s Life Around Her Interests, Not Her Disease

Before Brenda Reams had deep brain stimulation (DBS), her days centered around controlling the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Since having DBS surgery, her days now revolve around her interests – church activities and her grandchildren.

Brenda’s symptoms began a decade ago. She noticed more mistakes than normal when she was typing and a weakness in her left hand. The symptoms – leaning, foot dragging and lack of arm swinging when she walked – progressed to include her entire left side. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Medication helped ease the symptoms, as long as she adhered to a strict regimen, but her quality of life suffered.

“Eventually, I had to take medication every two hours or the symptoms would become obvious,” says Brenda. “I was a registered nurse working in a hospital, and it was difficult to stay on top of my medication schedule. I worked hard to compensate for the left-side weakness while I was at work, and was exhausted by the time I got home. I felt like I had no strength or stamina for anything else.”

Brenda quit her demanding nursing job of three decades. To compound that disappointment, she also felt unable to take care of her four grandchildren. “I wanted to do things with them and dote on them. When I couldn’t, I was disappointed in myself,” she says.

After DBS, her situation changed and Brenda perked up physically and emotionally, she says. “I feel like a different person. I play ball with my grandkids and keep up with them. They mean everything to me.”

Brenda learned about DBS after being referred to Dr. Agrawal, a neurologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She watched DVDs about the procedure and became eager to learn if she was a candidate. Comprehensive testing confirmed the surgery could help her condition, and she had the procedure eight months later.

Dr. Rezai, neurosurgeon at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center performed Brenda’s DBS surgery, implanting tiny electrodes in her brain and a small pacemaker-like device in her upper chest. Thin wires then connected the device to the electrodes, delivering electrical pulses that blocked the abnormal signals from the brain. Two days after surgery, Brenda was back at home.

“If you met me, you wouldn’t even know I have Parkinson’s disease,” says Brenda. “When I meet other people who have the disease, I give them copies of the DVDs and encourage them to check out DBS. My time at Ohio State was superb. I dearly love Dr. Agrawal. He is very patient centered.”

Brenda still takes medication to help control her symptoms, but she now takes lower doses less frequently. She is concerned Parkinson’s symptoms may one day travel to her right side, but she’s confident Drs. Agrawal and Rezai will be able to use DBS to help.

“If my left-side symptoms worsen, the doctors can change the programming in the implanted system to improve them. And if I get symptoms on the right side, they can do another DBS procedure,” Brenda says confidently. “I feel like DBS is a miracle, and the doctors’ ability to do this is amazing. I know they will be able to help me control my Parkinson’s disease so my life doesn’t have to revolve around it. I’m a Type A personality. I like being in control of my own body and life.”

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