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Friday, November 30, 2012

Programming a Parkie

Lip curling upwards
I went back to Tucson, Arizona (450+ miles round trip) for my first official DBS programming about ten days ago. Since my appointment wasn't until 2 pm, I took my morning dose of carbi/levodopa and ropinirole, but skipped the second dose, which was due at 11 am. By appointment time; a little rigidity and slowness had returned, but my face was the most affected. My upper lip was doing a weird curling upwards thing (almost like Elvis).

Programmer controller
Stephanie, the programmer, checked my blood pressure (it was fine) and then got out her programming box and did some "is everything working" tests. She asked me how I was doing, how I felt, what medications I was taking now, and what Parkinson's symptoms I was having. I told her my "goal" was to get off all oral medications completely. She said that was the wrong attitude to have and that my "goal" should be to feel as good as I can all day, even if it requires some oral medications. So, I got a new attitude!

My remote

My DBS unit comes with a remote control and all I could do, so far, was turn it on or off. Stephanie hooked up the antennae and showed me how to adjust the settings myself, within limitations she set. Since the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body and vice versa, the controller is designed to mimic your body, so when I look at it, the left number is for my left side and the right number is for the right side of my body. It is less confusing for us that way.

My remote with antennae
The antenna clips on to my shirt and must be positioned directly over the unit in my chest in order to work. Once it "connects" I can see my current settings, battery level and status. I can then turn each side up or down. She set limits, so I can't zap myself. When I walked in to her office, my left side was set at 1.0 and the right at 1.2. When she was done, my settings were at 1.2 and 1.4 and the rigidity and slowness were gone, but my face still felt strange, so I went ahead and took another carbi/levodopa and ropinirole. She said I might want to put the settings back to where she started if I got dyskinesia or other side effects and then gradually move them upwards over a few days. She said, "You know best how you feel."  

My current settings
As my brain continues to heal from the trauma of the surgery, adjustments will need to be made. Since my appointment, I have played with my settings and oral medications. I am now down to three oral doses a day and my settings are still at 1.2 and 1.4. It will be a slow process requiring several more trips to Tucson, but I am very happy with my results. I have almost no rigidity or slowness and only a slight tremor first thing in the morning. My upper lip still does the Elvis curl, but the oral medications relieve that. 

Even though my motor symptoms have almost disappeared and people (including my beloved Dr. Z) say, "You don't look like you have Parkinson's anymore," I still HAVE Parkinson's and still find my Energeezer Battery running out of juice. So, I have learned to pace myself and not overdue it. 

The bottom line; would I do it over again? The answer is a definite YES. Besides, you can't imagine the fun I am having. I tell friends about the DBS, how I am now "electrified" and then when they hug me, I say, "Bzzzt" and make them jump. Nice to know I haven't lost my sense of humor.
New electrified YumaBev

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  1. You got the new model remote, pretty swanky looking. Mine has buttons for on & off, and I can turn each side up and down within the parameters that my programmer sets, but there is no indicator of the current setting. To find out what number I am at, I have to go either all the way up or down, and count the number of beeps. You would think that if Medtronics can make a brain implant, they could manage an LED pad or something.

    Actually, they have promised me a new remote when I go in to have the battery changed. You probably got a remotely rechargeable battery too. I was told that the battery would last about 2 years, and I've had it going now for almost 5 years.

  2. Sounds like it is working out well! Keep us posted as to the changes you have as you progress with the DBS unit.