Deep Brain Stimulation treatment for Parkinson's

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A relatively unknown procedure has the potential to help those facing Parkinson’s disease. Now, a Suncoast woman is speaking out about her experience.

“They made two quarter-inch holes in my skull and inserted two electrodes,” says Connie Hoogeveen.

Connie Hoogeveen's Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson's disease symptoms took about 6 hours. “You're awake so the doctor can test it to see if it’s working.”

Electrical impulses stimulate the dime-size part of the brain, which produces the chemical Dopamine that controls muscle movement. During the surgery, she was asked questions. “Can you spell this or what day is it? How old are you? Who are you?”

James Kelderman, Hoogeveen's brother, says the diagnosis was difficult for the active grandmother of 13, but she aggressively sought treatment. “She's become fearless in many aspects of her life that would intimidate me a lot to have a surgery like that. I would have to think twice about it.”

Kelderman says her decision was fueled by the progression of the disease. “Dragging her leg, constant movements, and all the experiments with different medications.”

“I was up and down. It was like a rollercoaster, so I napped probably six times a day,” says Hoogeveen.

Her movement was so severe she developed callouses on her feet. “I would rock back and forth or move without reason and I couldn’t not do it.”

When the device is turned off, she says it’s like a light switch with all symptoms returning, including tremors, labored breathing and she drags her foot. When it’s on, it’s the opposite. “The first morning after surgery I jumped out of bed and I go, wait a minute, I don’t jump out of bed," says Hoogeveen.

DBS, she says, has given her life back. Now she only has to return for programming. "I have at least four or five more hours a day where I can function normally. I don’t have to take a pill every four hours."

Her brother agrees. “I couldn’t believe it. It was like when I see her now I say, ‘You don’t have Parkinson's anymore.’” He is not surprised she opted for DBS. “She went forward with it without any hesitation, so she's very brave."

Hoogeveen was a perfect candidate for Deep Brain Stimulation, because she was young enough without other health issues. It was performed at the right progression of the disease where her medications no longer controlled symptoms, and she had health insurance.