Friday, September 21, 2007

A Junkie's Brain & Parkinson's


ATASCADERO, California -- In Monterey County Jail, in the spring of 1981, a 21-year-old drug dealer and junkie named Toby Govea lay in bed shaking violently and uncontrollably. Thanks to a bad batch of homemade heroin, Govea had developed symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, an incurable neurological illness that causes muscle rigidity, tremors and eventually loss of movement.

Today, Govea remains incarcerated -- but free of tremors, thanks to a treatment made possible by research on the prisoner's own brain.

The treatment, called deep brain stimulation, has become the leading surgical treatment for Parkinson's, which afflicts 1.5 million Americans. It has been performed on more than 20,000 patients in the past decade.

In July of this year at the Atascadero State Hospital in California, Govea was lucid, and his muscles were still, as he recalled the events that made him a human guinea pig who helped develop a treatment for his own illness.


As I create this post, I am leaving the errrors that my Parkinson's diease creates through my tremors. This is tod emonstrtae how debilitating the condition can be, espcially to one who writes for a liviingg or as an avocation. Articles I submit fofr publicattion have too be meticuloussly edited before submissioon.

There was a time when my L-Dopa/Carbidopa controlled my symptoms for six hours at a time. Since I took it four times a day, that meant an absence of tremors for 24 hours a day. Now themedicaation works about four hours at a time, leaving me with two hours of significant symptoms -- severe leg a nd arm tremors, difficulty swallowing and ambulating, legs freezing when I walk, especially turing corners and arms freezing when I try to hang clothes in the closet.

Right now I am undegoing EECP for my coronary artery disease. I fear this therapy, which h as signficantly lessened my angina symptoms may be contributingn too my Parkinson's symptoms. I guess I won't know until the therapy is completed next month and I check in with my neurologist back in Indiana. I will keep you posted.

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