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Improving lives: Deep brain stimulation therapy helps people with Parkinson's disease
Rose Weisgram, an active wife and mother of two teenage daughters, started experiencing constant and extreme fatigue along with an overall unwell feeling. This prompted her to seek medical answers for what was going on with her body.
After several doctor appointments and medical evaluations, Weisgram was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2002.
"After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, I lost the sense that I had control over my body and my life," Weisgram says. "I was living in a body that had become a frightening stranger and seemed to continually change, as I would feel okay one minute and lousy the next. I used to plan my life years in advance. Then it became difficult to make plans for even the next day."
In an effort to manage her Parkinson's disease, Weisgram was prescribed several medicines. At one point she was on 15 prescriptions just to keep "my body moving," she says.
Weisgram had started to feel a gradual progression of the Parkinson's disease and was experiencing more pain and severe episodes of involuntary movements, which made writing, walking and talking more difficult.
Learning about DBS
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical technique that involves precise, gentle insertion of insulated wires into key areas of the brain, which are subsequently linked to a pacemaker-like device. The system delivers controlled and adjustable levels of electrical signals to the brain to soothe symptoms of Parkinson's disease or tremors.
DBS can effectively suppress many of the debilitating symptoms resulting from Parkinson’s disease, including tremors, rigidity, stiffness and mobility problems. Eventually, Weisgram was connected with Peter A. Pahapill, MD, PhD, medical director, United Neurorestoration Center, and Jawad A. Bajwa, MD, medical director, United Deep Brain Stimulation Program for Movement Disorders.
"After my husband, Gary, and I met with these two doctors, I was convinced that I had some angels looking over me," Weisgram says. "I knew that this DBS surgery was what I needed to get my quality of life back."
Relief from symptoms
Weisgram underwent DBS surgery at United Hospital. Pahapill performed the first surgery, which involved placing a DBS lead into her brain in late February. He also performed the second surgery, which was conducted on an outpatient basis in early March to place a pulse generator in her chest.
Following the surgery, Weisgram went through rehabilitation with Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute at United Hospital. This comprehensive rehabilitation program includes a specialized network for initial and ongoing DBS adjustment needs. This inpatient DBS rehabilitation program is the only one of its kind in the Midwest.
Weisgram also has regular check-up appointments with Bajwa to ensure she is receiving the most relief possible for her symptoms.
A life rebuilt
Within a couple months after her surgery, Weisgram regained her speech and writing abilities and was walking again. Her medicines have been reduced by 75 percent.
"It’s incredible how much you get back," Weisgram says. "Never in a million years did I think Parkinson’s disease would be a part of my life at age 40. Now, at 47, I am beginning a new phase of my life—to rebuild my life in a new and meaningful way."
Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the brain that leads to shaking (tremors) and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS)
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical technique that can suppress symptoms of Parkinson's disease, including tremor, rigidity, stiffness and mobility problems.