AGAINST THE GRAIN IN PARKINSON'S FIGHT

When medication proved less effective, deep brain stimulation (DBS) helped Clive leave his symptoms in the sawdust.

Against the Grain in Parkinson's Fight

Oct 24 2019

The table saw — screaming now at tens of thousands of revolutions a minute — makes easy work ripping that board.

In the workshop, the warm scents of helpless grain giving way to a blade's teeth fill the air as sawdust falls to the floor.

The tools, of course, have no awareness of their satisfying the senses. Their job is stone simple: Cut. Whatever comes, cut it in two. That includes wayward fingers and hands.

It's steady work — even if it's not something you do all the time.

Don't take our word for it. Here's Clive Couperthwaite.

"I've always loved working with wood. I like the smell of woodworking. To do this takes skill. And to do that properly, you need to have the hand coordination. And with Parkinson's, that is all gone."

Couperthwaite had been a practicing psychologist who specialized in forensic psychology. It was his job to figure what happened at the scene. In 2007, when his Parkinson's first showed itself, it was all still a mystery.

"The diagnosis of having Parkinson's disease was, at first, stunning. And it felt like I was somehow responsible for my condition," Couperthwaite said.

It wasn't long before Parkinson's seemed to take everything: his work, his relationships, his hobbies.

"He would often say, 'You could just put me on a desert island and leave me alone and I’d be happy.' He didn't want to engage," said Felicity, his wife.

"He wasn't telling as many jokes and he didn't have a lot of energy. I was just really worried about him," said Alana, his daughter.

He was splintering. He struggled to control his moods as much as his body, lumbering through his day. Medication, according to Clive, "was starting to have less and less effect and I had to have higher and higher doses."

And then he found Abbott’s directional deep brain stimulation (DBS).

His implanted, battery-operated neurostimulator sends mild electrical impulses to the regions of the brain that control movement. With its directional leads, the system allows a neurologist to customize stimulation and optimize therapy while helping limit potential side effects.

Doctors can more precisely steer electrical current toward targeted areas of the brain to lessen symptoms such as tremors. The system can also be conveniently and discreetly adjusted via an iPod Touch controller.

"Suddenly I felt like a new dawn had come about. I could move around, I could walk, I felt happy, I felt cheerful," Couperthwaite said. "Now I was able to do things I wasn’t able to do before."

Things like working confidently with his saws and sharp tools again to build his works of art from wood.

"I noticed the difference immediately. I've got my husband back," Felicity said.

"It feels like I have my childhood back. Like, the father I didn't have for so many years is finally back," Alana said.

They're with him, through thick and thin. And with the help of this precision technology, he's cutting through, leaving his symptoms in the sawdust and helping others who are suffering as he had.

"The future you had planned or thought about for yourself can come back into focus again. I didn't know that’s what the technology would provide. And that's just been phenomenal," he said.

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