Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance

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She was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a decade after her symptoms began

And very quickly, one thing leads to another. And then a doctor tells me, 'I think you may have Parkinson's. Historically, physicians have had some success in the early stages of Parkinson's by managing the symptoms with medication, which can supplement the lack of natural dopamine generation for a period of time. After years of taking medications, however, the body gets used to the effects and the advantages begin to diminish. When he finally told his wife, Yu Chong, he had Parkinson's, she could not fight back the tears.

But even before she had stopped crying, she promised him that together they would do whatever it took to fight the disease. And they would win.

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They couldn't. Where did I go wrong? What caused this? There were no answers. And soon after that, there were minimal benefits from the medications, as the sickness in Steve's body began to overwhelm the positive effects of artificial dopamine in his brain. One day in the summer of , Steve's mother wandered into an art gallery with some friends and mentioned her son's condition to someone who also had a relative in the late stages of this debilitating disease.

A neurologist, who happened to be there that day, overheard her story. He quickly facilitated a meeting between Steve and his practice partner specializing in movement disorders. After an extensive examination, Steve heard the same things he had heard from several specialists over the past few years: "You are in the late stages of Parkinson's and you've maxed out your meds. You need to go see Gordon Baltuch," the neurologist said. Hearing those words set in motion an exhaustive internet search for everything Steve could find about Gordon Baltuch, MD.

And the more he read, the more he dared to hope. When Steve met Dr. Baltuch, he remembers a term the physician used almost immediately in their conversation. Baltuch said he was going to implant wire leads into both sides of my brain, which would emit electrical signals on command and stimulate certain areas of my brain so that it would function in ways that it hadn't functioned in years. But the way Dr. Baltuch explained it was brilliant, and he was so confident, and at the same time so caring, that I made up my mind on the spot: If there's anyone I trust to go into my brain and do all this, it's this guy.

On the morning of the procedure, Steve came to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania medication-free for the first time in years. He suddenly realized how much the Parkinson's had progressed. I was horribly uncomfortable due to the complete lack of medication in my system for the first time in years. Seconds felt like hours. I couldn't move with any authority; I couldn't speak above a whisper. Then, almost instantly as the lead is positioned in the best spot, I feel a rush of energy flow through my system for the first time in years.

Steve's Story about Parkinson's Disease – Penn Medicine

Then, they put me back under again so they can close the two holes up and implant two tiny neuro—stimulators just under the skin of my chest. I could concentrate. I could eat. I could sleep. I could do all these things I hadn't been able to do for years. I felt normal, for the first time in forever.

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I felt alive again. After putting up a brave front and showing the courage he felt he needed to demonstrate for years through his suffering, Steve looked up at his wife and mother and broke down in tears. Just sitting there thinking about getting these things back, and having the luck and good fortune to have been able to have the operation, was very humbling.

In the days after his procedure, Steve felt no pain and very little discomfort, a state he attributes at least partly to the quality of his care. I was hungry for the first time in years and they raced to bring in food for me.

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  • They didn't have to do that. Baltuch was like the captain of the ship. He was always very personable and made a connection right from the start at our first meeting. We shared stories about baseball, playing guitar and other personal things. He's just a great guy, a great guy who happens to be a neurosurgeon.

    Steve holds up the palm—sized transmitter that controls his neuro—stimulator, still marveling at the magic of the engineering. Baltuch comes in when it's time to start the deep brain stimulation , hands me this and says, 'It's not rocket science.

    Think of it as electric medicine. You'll pick up controlling the system in no time. Steve quickly mastered the neuro—stimulator, customizing the stimulation so that it worked in sync with his general health.

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    In a matter of days, the process became more steady and predictable, and the benefits became more pronounced. Winged statuettes honoring every aspect of his work. Each item brings out a boyish exuberance, as if Fox still can't believe his own luck. That's only to say we all get our own bag of hammers.

    My Parkinson’s Story: Atypical

    Michael Andrew Fox — the "J" came years later; he thought it sounded cooler — was born in Edmonton, Alberta, on June 9, His father, Bill, once worked as a jockey and was a sergeant in the Canadian Army; his mother, Phyllis, was a payroll clerk. Mike, as he's known to friends and family, was the fourth of five children. Fox was too small to live out his dream of becoming a competitive ice hockey player.

    Family Ties , about the clash of values of liberal, former-hippie parents and their conservative offspring, arrived after America's cultural consciousness had shifted from Haight-Ashbury to Wall Street, and the show ran for seven seasons. A slide into drinking, carousing and overspending followed. By 23, I had a Ferrari," he says. I never stopped to figure that out. They married in With Tracy's insistence and encouragement, Fox quit drinking in , which prompted a new outlook on his success. These days, even with a condition known for making patients fitful, Fox sleeps well and wakes around 8 a.

    He walks his dog, Gus "or he walks me," Fox concedes, eyeing the gargantuan Great Dane at his feet , then sees the kids off to school. The actor, who receives treatment available to all Parkinson's patients despite having financial resources others don't, has responded extremely well to medication and has no need for physical therapy — unusual for someone diagnosed so long ago. Even his daily pill intake a full-time preoccupation for most PD sufferers is "not that many relative to most people," Fox says.

    As with so many mysteries with Parkinson's , scientists do not know why some patients react better than others to treatment. Fox and his family reside seven floors above his Manhattan office in a prewar apartment overlooking Central Park. It's a spacious nest that's about to get noticeably more so. The upside is that Fox and Pollan get more time together. In the initial stages of Parkinson's, Fox hid his diagnosis out of fear that it would diminish his offers for work, and he kept Pollan at a distance, too.

    In the end, the disease has brought them closer. As Fox puts it, "The more problems you solve together and the more experiences and laughs you have, the tighter you get.

    Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance
    Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance
    Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance
    Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance
    Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance
    Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance Parkinson’s A Personal Story of Acceptance

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