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Taking A Mental Break

As many of you probably don’t know, I underwent Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery this past August to alleviate some of the more severe symptoms of Parkinson’s disease – a movement disorder that I have fought against since 2005. I am very pleased with the outcome of the surgery though it did have its moments.

During one of the preliminary surgeries, the surgeon drilled four small holes into my head to insert fiducial markers that would later serve as guides during the main lead placement surgery. This was done as I sat fully awake in a chair in his office. As I sat there listening to the never ceasing whine of the drill I was reminded that my mother had told me as a teenager that my head was so hard that I would argue with a stop sign. I also kept praying that the surgeon had followed the old carpenter’s rule to always measure twice before you cut . . . or drill.

The subsequent surgeries, which were a week apart, where the surgeon placed the stimulation leads into my brain and a battery into my chest, went flawlessly. Surprisingly, the battery placement was the worst part.

The end result of the surgery has been a substantial increase in my mobility, a significant decrease in the amount of dopamine medication that I require daily and a return to a more normal diet and healthy weight. On a practical level, this meant that this past Friday I was able spend the day in Columbia attending to my duties as a House member, on Saturday to hit golf balls with my 14 year old and on Sunday to take him hiking up in Pisgah – all the while being able to eat pretty much what I darn well wanted. 

I am extremely thankful to God, my neurologists and neurosurgeons, and to those purveyors of medical technology that we love to hate. I also want to thank my friends and supporters for your patience and understanding as I have not been very forthcoming in the past with the details about my Parkinson’s. I have tried very hard to not allow the disorder to define me all the while keeping in mind that I stand as an example to my son who struggles with Hemophilia A. 

Over the years I have discovered that the best treatment for a movement disorder and life in general is to keep moving forward – with a good sense of humor, of course.

“In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life.”  ― Oliver Sacks

2 Comments

  1. Margaret Stringer

    Great post!

  2. Jim Alexander

    Hey Tommy, Great story with a happy conclusion! It took a person of great courage to even undergo such an awake brain procedure! Seems to be an epidemic of PD now for unknown reasons. We have 6 friends with the syndrome including you & 3 neighbors!!
    Don’t forget those exercises that appear to help as well. Hiking may be included.
    Keep on trucking, we need more people with courage where you are.
    Best to you & family,
    JIm Alexander, MD (ret.)
    Client, Supporter & Friend

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