Jennifer’s Story about Parkinson’s Disease
“I lay down and prepared to die.” Today we will share the story of a Georgia resident who began to tremble uncontrollably in her arms and legs at the age of 48. The surgery saved Jennifer – a device was sewn under her skin that controls trembling hands.
Jennifer Davis, a resident of Columbus, contacted doctors 10 years ago as she had chondrosis, and they noticed a change in her handwriting. That is how she learned about her new diagnosis – Parkinson’s disease. The disease progressed: Jennifer, like many patients, developed other symptoms quickly – tremors in limbs (trembling), depression. She could not walk the way she used to and generally decided that life ended at the age of 48. But in 2018, she underwent surgery – a device was sewn under her skin that helps control the movements of her arms and legs. We learned from Jenniffer how she coped with depression and learned to appreciate the joys of life, why she had to undergo a second surgery, and what device she now uses to do everything at home and at work.
“I thought it was chondrosis”
Jennifer lives in the private sector, so there is a lot of work, both in the house and in the yard. In addition, she has several cats and dogs.
A few years ago, such a way of life – housework, meeting guests, caring for animals – was an unaffordable luxury for this woman. Because of her depression, she could hardly force herself to get out of bed, and if she did, she could hardly do even the simplest work. Jennifer has Parkinson’s disease. She learned about her diagnosis by accident 10 years ago, when she was 48 years old.
– I had one arm hanging – I thought it was chondrosis, as usual. I went for treatment, and it turned out that my handwriting had changed – I always had beautiful handwriting, but it became slow and the letters were so small. My family doctor sent me to a neurologist because handwriting change is one of the first signs of illness.
Jennifer shows her hands and asks if we notice a slight trembling. If we do not know which particular patient we are visiting, then we might not notice.
Usually, Jennifer’s hands shake even less, but today she got a little excited because of the interview.
– Then the handshaking began, I felt constant weakness, the gait changed. – the woman recalls.
Previously, Jennifer did not even know about such a disease, and after she was diagnosed, she began to notice people like her on the street – their hands were shaking.
Due to illness, Jennifer had to quit the chocolate factory, where she worked for 20 years – her task was glazing sweets.
– I was so depressed! I went to bed and lay, I didn’t go to work. Then I quit. I lay down and prepared to die. I didn’t want to do anything, I couldn’t even eat, I just drank water. I brought myself to such a state that my swallowing reflex was disturbed – I could not swallow.
Jennifer recalls that she couldn’t even wash the dishes – she didn’t have enough strength for that.
– Hand weakness was killing me…
Once a doctor came to Jennifer and said that there was no need to bring herself to such a state, she drew attention to the beautiful sun outside the window and pushed her to gradually get out of this state.
– Now I feel better but I spend up to $700 a month on medicines. I buy everything with my own money: I don’t have any benefits. Sometimes, I spend my entire pension on medicine! The only free drug on my list has a lot of side effects: speech slowdown, movement disorders, and others. A couple of times I even had to take out payday loans in Columbus Georgia. This was the only way to get fast cash for medicines. A local bank will not give me a loan as a pension is my only official income. Payday loans literally saved my life twice as my illness cannot wait and I have to purchase medicines on time every month. I always repay such loans quickly, as soon as I receive my pension or get paid for pet sitting – this help avoids overpayment.
What is Parkinson’s disease and how is it treated?
Dr. Agustina Gardner, a neurologist from the Stanford Movement Disorders Center, explains that Parkinson’s disease is a chronic progressive disease that is associated with a rapid consumption of the mediator dopamine. It is characterized by movement disorders – basically, it is a tremor or stiffness:
– But there are other so-called non-motor symptoms of the disease – vegetative disorders. These are mood swings, increased sweating, drooling, blood pressure drops, intestinal motility disorders, and depression. They are found in almost 80% of patients.
The disease is quite common: 150-200 patients out of 100 thousand have Parkinson’s, Dr. Gardner explained. It affects mainly people over the age of 60. But now Parkinson’s disease, like many other diseases, is getting younger: it is also diagnosed in patients who are only 20-30 years old.
There is conservative treatment – basically, all patients receive antiparkinsonian drugs. In the initial stages, therapy can give good results, but as the disease progresses, either this therapy is not enough or any side effects appear.
Since 2000, the Stanford Movement Disorders Center has been using the surgical method for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease – more than 70 patients have already gone through it.
– We are performing surgical treatment of this disease – subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation (this is the implantation of a device in the patient’s body that sends electrical impulses to a certain part of the brain). This is a surgery that is not aimed at destroying some structures of the brain but at stimulating the subcortical nuclei, which are responsible for the listed symptoms – trembling and stiffness. The advantage of neurostimulation is that this intervention is reversible: if any side effects or complications appear, the system is removed and the patient returns to the previous life, Dr. Gardner said.
There are rechargeable and non-rechargeable systems. Rechargeable systems are designed for 20 years, and the second – for 3-5 years. Non-rechargeable batteries require battery replacement, which is installed in the subclavian region, not the entire system. This intervention is short (about 40-50 minutes) and involves local anesthesia.
However, this type of treatment is only suitable for 20% of patients because there are certain indications and contraindications.
– The patient must be relatively young (preferably under the age of 65). In addition, they must not have impaired memory and psyche, so that they can understand how to use the stimulation system. The patient has a control panel which is used to control the effects of the neurostimulator, the neurologist explains.
How the surgery changed Jennifer’s life
In June 2018, Jennifer Davis underwent such a surgery at the Stanford Movement Disorders Center. She had a special device installed under her collarbone on the right side. She controls it with a special device that looks a lot like a mobile phone. There you can set a number that adjusts the intensity of the tremor.
– They gave me a device, like a mobile phone. You dial the code and adjust the shaking of your hands. So far I have stopped here, – Jennifer shows a slight, barely noticeable, trembling.
Jennifer constantly repeats the words of gratitude to the doctors who helped her – both the neurologist and the surgeons.
– Now I even take care of myself and go to work. You can live with Parkison’s, – Jennifer said.
Now she does not feel that there is a device in her body, she feels it only when she is taking a shower.
– I try not to pay attention. It doesn’t bother me.
“I’m even happy that I can wash the floor!”
True, there was a moment in her life when it is so hard to live with Parkinson’s disease. 2.5 years after the surgery, the device failed. So, Jennifer underwent a new surgery and a new system was installed.
– While I was waiting for the surgery, I tried not to go anywhere, Jennifer recalls.
Now she can cook, wash the floor, water the flowers, make the bed, and even work in her garden.
– After the surgery, I go out with pleasure! I’m so glad I can work again, I go to the store, walk in the park, do somewhere else. I’m even happy that I wash the floor! And I’m so happy that I walk with my own feet and admire the houses, the trees, the stars, Jennifer Davis happily says.
Tags: disease, medication, Parkinson's disease, payday loans, treatment