At 38 years old, Dr. Jonathan Lessin was living a healthy lifestyle as an avid skier and a successful cardiac anesthesiologist. He had a great job, a wonderful wife, and two beautiful daughters. Jon’s career required long hours, but he was comfortable with his day-to-day routine, especially when he had time to hit the slopes. Until one day, Jon’s life changed when he noticed an unfamiliar mild tremor in his pinky. Jon’s quivering pinky motivated him to seek the advice from a neurologist who, without hesitation, diagnosed Jonathan with Parkinson’s disease.
At that time, Jonathan was prescribed a standard pharmaceutical regime, but unfortunately with time his condition worsened. As his disease progressed, Jonathan tried to continue to work but the symptoms were so unbearable that he was forced to take vacation time while he attempted to better manage his debilitating symptoms. As Jon became more resistant to the medications, his symptoms began to impact every aspect of his life. He was no longer able to work much less perform basic activities of daily living.
Determined to return to his active lifestyle, Jonathan began to educate himself about Parkinson’s disease and additional treatment options. He recalled taking part in several operations to implant deep brain stimulators (DBS) – battery-operated medical technologies that produced electoral impulses that can help regulate abnormal signals in the brain for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
DBS involves surgically implantation of three components: an electrode lead, an extension and the neurostimulator. The lead is inserted through a small opening in the skull and placed in a precise area in the brain. The lead is then connected to the extension under the skin of the head, neck and shoulder where the neurostimulator is implanted. Once the system is implanted and operational, the neurostimulator delivers electrical signals to the targeted area of the brain to interfere or block the abnormal nerve activity that causes tremors and other symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease.He approached his neurologist to see if he would be a qualified candidate for this medical technology and his neurologist agreed that he would be great candidate
Receiving the DBS technology required multiple procedures. The first step was to identify the placement of the electrode lead. Jonathan went through pre-operative testing using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to locate the exact target within the brain where the neural signals generate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In the operating room, Jonathan’s head was placed into a frame while the lead electrode and extension wire were surgically placed into the brain. With this step complete, Jon had a post-operative computed tomography (CT) scan to confirm the placement of the lead then waited three weeks for his body to heal. The third step was to surgically implant the battery-powered neurostimulator and the final step was to activate the system and customizing the program for Jon’s specific anatomy.
“The moment my doctor turned on the DBS system is a day I will never forget. I can still remember how horrible I felt before the device was activated,” Jon said. That morning, following protocol, Jon could not take any of his medications and his body reacted negatively to the lack of treatment. His symptoms were severe, his body was stiff and he was unable to move. Once the doctor activated one side of his device, immediately the stiffness in Jonathan’s muscles melted away. Excited, he began running around the clinic, “This is amazing!” The doctor had to bring Jonathan back to the examining room to activate the second side, finishing the last step of the procedure.
“The only regret I have, is not receiving the surgery sooner,” Jonathan explains. “Behind my wedding day and the birth of my children, getting the DBS was the best day of my life.”
Deep brain stimulation allowed Jon to regain his independence to live a longer, happier and more productive life and with improved movement. Although he retired from his medical practice, he now is an enthusiastic indoor rock climber, scaling walls three times per week. Jonathan was also able to return to the slope and even challenge mogul runs.
“I know that I would never be able to step foot on a ski slope without this medical technology.” Jonathan says “Deep brain stimulation truly changed my life.”