Succeed in a demanding job? All in a day’s work.
He considers himself lucky, but it’s not always good luck. Wright is no stranger to challenges.
Navigate a Young Onset Parkinson’s disease diagnosis at just 44, enduring tremors, soreness and stiffness. Seek help and understanding to fight a progressive disease. Undergo surgery. Explore solutions. And become a staunch advocate for Parkinson’s disease awareness? All in a night’s work after the day’s work is done.
Trudging Through Concrete
Driving home from work one night in September of 2014, he noticed his right foot involuntarily “bounce” on the gas pedal. Strange. But “I didn’t think much of it,” Wright said.
Stranger still, as he laid down for bed that night, his right hand began to shake. “Again, didn’t think much of it.” That is, until he couldn’t ignore it. His right hand started to tremor, meaning his brain was sending signals to the body, causing involuntary movement, more and more frequently.
While holding hands with his wife, TJ, a few months later, she noticed the involuntary tremor. As a nurse, she probed. “It’s just been doing that,” he offered. Not good enough. She insisted he get it checked out. As any good spouse does, he listened. He again considers himself lucky that he found a neurologist who was able to quickly pinpoint the cause of his tremors in April 2015.
Young Onset Parkinson’s disease.
“It was almost a relief to get that diagnosis at that point. We didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I immediately started carbidopa/levodopa, which is sort of the ‘gold standard’ Parkinson’s drug. I was put on more medications, but they wore off quickly. Sometimes, a dose would only last 30 minutes.”
Over the course of the next four years, Wright was taking up to 20 pills per day — still experiencing tremors and the subsequent soreness and stiffness that comes with them.
Like we said, it’s not all good luck.
As it turned out, his Parkinson’s was progressing faster than originally projected, and much faster than anyone wanted.
“I had tremors, I was stuttering, I would get stuck on words that I had on the tip of my tongue but couldn’t get it out,” he said. “I would try to go on walks with my wife but was slow and couldn’t keep my balance. It felt like my whole body was in concrete.”
Optimistic but Realistic
By 2018, he recalls having a hard time functioning at work, not being able to do “hardly anything at home,” experiencing pain and frustration, and not being able to sleep. Even his favorite hobby, wood turning, wasn’t possible. “My hand would curl up and my muscles would tense,” he said.
In joining online and in-person Parkinson’s disease support groups and meeting other people living with Parkinson’s, Wright learned of deep brain stimulation (DBS) technology, which utilizes a pacemaker-like device to send targeted signals to the area of the brain to relieve symptoms like tremor.
He knew that DBS wasn’t a cure for Parkinson’s. Still, Wright thought, “If I get 10 or 15% improvement, it’s a win.”
He discussed DBS with his neurologist and expressed specific interest in our Infinity DBS System, which he knew could be updated and adjusted without needing to remove the battery.
“I knew DBS was an option,” he said. “But my frustration was with not expecting to need to get DBS so soon. What bothered me most, was it showed the progression of the disease. When you’re diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s, the disease should progress slower. What scared me the most was thinking, ‘Am I going to be able to hold my grandkids, walk around without a walker?’ But there was hope in DBS.”
Ultimately, in March of 2019, he received his Infinity DBS System.
“I wasn’t scared going in,” he said. “I was optimistic, but realistic.”