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Five years after Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery for Parkinson’s

13 Mar

Gary with his halo on before DBS Surgery 2010

This is a picture of me with my halo screwed to my head just before DBS surgery.  They use the halo in surgery to place the wires accurately where they need to go (which is a good thing!).

It has been 5 years since I had Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery ((DBS) – what a miracle of science.  Place two little wires implanted in my brain, add some electricity, and wham – I get my life back – or most of it.

Let me expand on that a little – current symptoms:  I can’t speak very well, my voice is indistinct and speech garbled much of the time.  My wife, Carol, is so patient with me, asking over and over to repeat!  I learned how to write in elementary school, but have lost the ability to physically write much more than my first name.  Fortunately I can type, so I carry a tablet most of the time to take notes in – thank You Lord for the modern digital era!!  I also get easily fatigued, so I have to watch my energy level.  But I drive, dress, feed myself, etc. all of which would have been difficult or impossible without DBS.

How do I know that?  I have accidentally let the battery go dead twice – I charge it once per week for about 2 hours – and found out very quickly that without DBS and WITH medicine, I am very impaired.  My right arm is nearly paralyzed, my face drawn into a frightful mask, and the act of moving is like walking or moving through mud.  WITHOUT DBS and WITHOUT medicine, movement is nearly impossible.  Getting dressed – forget it!  Drive – You wouldn’t want to see that scene – scary.  Massive pileup.  Eating – very sketchy if nearly impossible.  The meds only last an hour or two, then I would not be able to move, stuck in cement, for another two hours when my next dose would be due.   To a lessor degree that was my life before the DBS operation.  The “On/off” was a killer.

You can see why I am thankful to the Lord for DBS!  That includes my photography career/hobby on steroids (as Carol; my wife calls it).  Thankfully I have early onset Parkinson’s which was diagnosed when I was 48 years old. I have now been under the Parkinson’s spell for 11 years!  Many people who have early onset don’t have quivering hands.  Mine are steady as a rock!  Makes for much sharper photos when the camera isn’t gyrating !!

My 27 year career in sales was very satisfying, mostly enjoyable and somewhat successful.  The last 5 years, however was somewhat of a challenge.  What do salespeople do – talk and talk and talk…  As I lost my ability to speak clearly I’m sure many of my customers were saying (to themselves), “What did he just tell me?”.  In 2009 I left the material handling industry (not by choice), was unemployed for a few months and was hired as an Industrial Telemarketer.  You heard right – telemarketing for a guy who couldn’t speak.  To be clear, I could get by in the mornings when I could speak better, so I worked in the mornings until 2 years later even morning speech wasn’t working and I was forced to quit, trusting God to supply our needs!  One week later I received Social Security Disability (after only one application, most of the time it takes many multiple applications!)  That was a direct supply of our needs by our Heavenly Father, who worked it out to get my application through the red tape at just the right time.

So, you might ask what am I doing today?  I am involved with The Fine Art Center at Cross Pointe, a coop art gallery in Centerville, OH.  I display my photos there and I’m the Webmaster and Facebooker.  I am an also an event photographer for churches and non-profit organizations.  And I’m a landscape photographer.  My photo website is:

I can drive.  I can move, somewhat.  I can feed and dress myself.  I am so thankful to the Lord for the things I can do!!  Nothing like losing some capabilities to make you appreciate what you have left.  I am eternally grateful for my loving family who are patient with me and Jesus who died in my place on the cross! As is famously quoted from 9-11, “Lets roll”.





Shower Mat Nazi

28 Jun

Kettering Rehab – Self Portrait on Cell Phone

Well there is a saying (or verse)-“the Lord gives and the Lord takes away”. Because of slipping on the shower mat and hitting my left leg on the side of the tub, I have broken the femur and have lost the ability to put any pressure on my leg for 6 or more weeks.  This puts a huge hole in my weekly calender!!! But on the good side I have gained enough metal in my leg to get a good start on building a battleship. The x-ray of my leg post operation looks like a huge shoehorn with scary protrusions.  I am now a “shower mat Nazi”, checking with everyone I meet to make sure they are not to using a shower mat.  My wife has put down a bunch of gritty decals in the bottom of the deadly shower.

As God’s economy goes there is always some kind of rainbow after a storm. Let me explain this rainbow sighting. For a number of months my “Parkinson’s speech” has grown less and less understandable to those around me. With Parkinson’s a patient hears himself as speaking at a normal speaking level and in their brain can not (without help) hear that they are actually speaking very softly and indistinctly (weird disease!!!). Part of my therapy at Kettering Rehab has been to work on my speech.  Speech therapy is a normal requirement for them since they get a lot of stroke patients there. Terri and the other speech therapists have been patiently teaching me what normal speech sounds like. To me inside my head I seem to be yelling but to the outside world it is a normal level or maybe a little loud but hugely more understandable. The method is for me to think “loud” and diction, breath support, etc. follow. To be honest my relationship with Carol and the kids has been impacted negatively because sometimes it just is not worth the effort, concentration, and constant hard work to be heard and understood. This causes me to withdraw into my own little world where Carol, who has loving and patiently understood, still in the end often feels left out of my life. Pressure was slowly building as I was isolating myself even from her. Because of the intensive therapy thinking LOUD is becoming much more of a habit and I am catching my times of mumbling and soft voice.

Bottom line is a broken leg, while not in itself a blessing or fun (and I have to say has been very painful) is in our loving and all-knowing Savior’s economy a path for me back to community with my loving, dedicated wife, great kids, and my friends who have all surrounded me with prayer, love and support. Thank you!

Alfie the Cocker Spaniel takes over the keyboard!

26 Feb

Hi, this is Alfie, the Cocker Spaniel.  My dad was too tired to write anything tonight, so I took over.  After all, it is all about me! Cockers rule!

Today my dad took me and Riley, my rowdy baby cousin, on a long walk to get the car from the car fix it-up place.  It was a great walk.  Got to eat some snow, smell some good poop smells, and almost got to pick up another tennis ball to add to my collection.  I got to see some new parts of my town.  My fur got really messy and muddy – that was the greatest thing about the walk!

Well, we got in the car and I found a rawhide bone under the front car seat!  That made up for the tennis ball I didn’t get to pick up.  When we got back to my house Dad ran water in the bath tub.  I knew I was doomed.  Wow, I hate baths.  Here is a picture of me in the bath tub.  Not happy in the least.

This will probably lead to a brushing.  I hate those brushes.  I think I will hide them sometime.  After I got out of the bath tub I ran around like a crazy woman with Riley chasing me and biting at me while I rubbed on the carpet and couch to dry off.  I got mad at Riley and his sharp baby teeth!  What a little brat!  Well, I guess I am kind of getting used to having her around.  Except for those sharp teeth!

That was my day.  Lots of boring sleeping then the longest walk I have had in a while!  I think I’ll take a nap.