Just imagine

The surgery’s simple goal of replacing two failing Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) batteries with a single rechargeable design does not do the procedure justice. Nearly five years with the original twin pulse generators had suckered me into a feeling of relative normalcy. That is, until the failing battery implanted in the left side of my chest dropped below a voltage threshold of criticality, reinvigorating Parkinson’s symptoms barely felt for half a decade. 

Feeling like a frustrated bystander, I looked on as my physical abilities deteriorated. Endurance and strength slowly eroded while practicing hot yoga, a discipline that had provided me with a steady meditative platform, as well as an arduous, balance-honing workout. My Parkinson’s symptoms reappeared in a demoralizing downward spiral while awaiting surgery.

That started to change while on the operating table ten day ago, although it will be five more weeks of limited physical activity before I can begin my self-directed rehab. I know that exercise will make everything feel better.

In the meantime, the new battery’s increased capabilities astound, allowing me to drop my daily dosage of Levodopa by almost a third. The electrical signal parameters of the improved battery are different than the old, with an expanded capability to pinpoint exact spots along each of the two electrodes in my brain, one affecting the left side of my body, the other the right.

At my first follow up visit with the neurologist, she programed the battery controller to a range of settings based on my symptomatic response, allowing me to adjust one variable—pulse amplitude—at home. The upper amplitude limit is defined by a visible increase in dyskinesia and a mental fogginess; the lower by the minimum setting required to eliminate debilitating dystonia and the need for canes. So far, I haven’t had to adjust the settings.

Imagine that: an artificial change in the electrical wave’s amplitude to one side of my brain directly impacts my awareness and ability to achieve stillness, while maintaining the necessary current to enable walking—or skipping—with nary a limp. Electrical energy, all energy, for that matter, influences us in amazing and unseen ways.

Just imagine.

A most curious cadence

Lithium batteries have a notoriously sharp drop-off rate toward the end of their charge, so it should not have surprised me when my Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) system’s left battery voltage—which affects the left side of my brain and right half of my body—fell off precipitously approaching the five year mark since hardware installation. Still, despite knowing that the higher draw left battery would be the first to fail, I was caught flat-footed.

With some creative schedule massage by the Nurses and staff at Swedish, my battery replacement surgery was moved up by two months. In hindsight, I should have requested the “one for two” sale (both old batteries will be replaced by a single rechargeable with a 15-year warranty) back in July, before I started to power down.

The net result is a rapid return toward my pre-DBS Parkinson’s symptoms, despite moving up each dosage of levodopa (i.e. cheating) in an attempt to counter increased lethargy, stiffness, pain, and dystonia. It’s back to two to three hours of nightly sleep, usually from 9:00 pm to 11:00 or midnight, with maybe another hour around 7:00 am if I’m lucky.

Familiar feelings of desperately wanting to participate in physical activity, but being unable to do so, are a source of frustration. Nine days until surgery, and then six weeks of light lifting only. The boredom will be difficult, for Laurie mostly, as she valiantly endures my unique blend of nuanced whining and hardcore complaining. It shall require the patience of a Tibetan Monk and the soothing manner of a Drill Instructor.

My rapid return to pre-DBS discomfort is humbling, but I seem to be adapting and my mood is good. I guess I’ve learned—and re-learned, several times—that negativity just makes a bad situation worse, and in the grand scheme of things this ain’t so bad. There’s also the tremendous carrot of a new, topped-off battery potentially reversing things for the better, at least for a time.

And so, this most curious dyskinetic cadence goes on…

Venus rising

Dusk shelters learned captivity, concealing true-natured intention, conceding a lone star to pulse at the brink of instinct’s pleasure.

Venus rises, reviving gentle serenity aside integrity’s mocking praise.

Make loose the bonds of common servitude, consent passionately to softening veneration, free a soul forever with the cherishing of a tranquil heart.