Source: Asbury Park Press
At the age of 36, John Leonard Jr. began suffering tremors in his hands and legs, which became more debilitating as time went on…But today, the 46-year-old Brick resident has a new outlook on life, thanks to a surgical procedure he underwent last month at JFK Medical Center.
Leonard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008…He was referred to the JFK Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute…There he met Dr. Jacqueline Cristini, (who) told Leonard about Deep Brain Stimulation. The surgery is most often used for patients whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medications. “Of all of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, tremor is the most difficult to control with medication, but fortunately the most responsive to DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) surgery,” Cristini said.
Deep Brain Stimulation uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device, called a neurostimulator, to deliver electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking abnormal nerve signals that cause tremors and Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
Leonard met with neurosurgeon Dr. Asif Bashir, and after doing some research, he opted for the surgery — “It was my last chance.”
A magnetic resonance image (MRI) of Leonard’s brain was taken. The result, along with a special computer, were used to calculate a safe path through the brain to the affected area.
Leonard was awake, but mildly sedated, during certain parts of the procedure, when he would let the team know how he was feeling. “The brain does not have any pain receptors, so patients do not usually complain of pain, despite the fact they are wide awake,” Cristini said.
Once the target was located and the neurostimulator was in place, the device was turned on, sending electrical impulses along the extension wire and the into the brain. As the voltage was increased, Leonard’s tremors ceased.
After the procedure, Leonard returned to JFK to have the neurotransmitter programmed and his medicine adjusted. It usually takes about three or four programming visits to get maximum control of the symptoms. He also will learn to adjust the transmitter on his own.
Cristini has been doing the Deep Brain Stimulation programming for about 10 years. The hospital performs a little more than two-dozen Deep Brain Stimulation surgeries annually. “We have patients as young as 39 and as old as 81. The reason more surgeries are not done is because people really aren’t aware of it, and that’s so sad because it works very, very well.”
Leonard said he is grateful to the doctors who performed the surgery. Because of them, he will be able to find enjoyment in an upcoming visit from his sons, John III, 22, and Michael, 20, whom he hasn’t seen since December — they’ll be able to go out and do things together.
“I can’t thank (the doctors) enough,” he said. “What a great team they are. They changed my life.”