Deep Brain Stimulation helps Parkinson's patient gain control of his body

By Jason M Carlton

Reggie, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2007, had heard about deep brain stimulation, or DBS, in which neurosurgeons implant electrical leads into the brain. Those leads are then connected to a small device called a neurostimulator, placed in the patient’s chest, which gives off electrical pulses that correct the misfirings in the brain that cause Parkinson’s symptoms.

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The next time you pass a semi-truck on the highway, there’s a good chance the technology created by Reggie Welles and his company helped train the person behind the wheel. 

Reggie is the visionary leader behind Murray-based AST, which specializes in creating training simulation units for truck drivers, Highway Patrol troopers, student drivers, and other vehicle operators. Though he’s very comfortable with technology and trained as an aeronautical engineer, Reggie was faced with the decision several months ago of whether to trust state-of-the-art brain technology to manage his Parkinson’s, which was quickly becoming debilitating despite the medications he was using.
 
Reggie, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2007, had heard about deep brain stimulation, or DBS, in which neurosurgeons implant electrical leads into the brain. Those leads are then connected to a small device called a neurostimulator, placed in the patient’s chest, which gives off electrical pulses that correct the misfirings in the brain that cause Parkinson’s symptoms.
 
Several things influenced Reggie’s decision to consider DBS. “It wasn’t just about me,” Reggie says. “Besides increasing my dependency on family members for assistance, my obligations as CEO of the company touched many lives. My clients and co-workers deserved my full attention. The only viable option was to find some way to take back control of my body.” 

Though DBS has been used successfully to treat thousands of Parkinson’s patients nationwide, Reggie was hesitant. The thought of surgeons drilling into his skull nearly scared him out of having the procedure. But after meeting with the neurosciences team at Intermountain Medical Center and neurosurgeon Peter Maughan, MD, in particular, Reggie decided to proceed. 

An effective team helped Reggie return to the life he loves. The procedure took place in two parts. His first surgery was on August 9, then two weeks later he had the second operation. Since having the device placed, Reggie has also been working closely with his neurologist, Evan Black, MD, and Kenyon Fausett, a representative from the device manufacturer, to make minor adjustments to the DBS device. “This team worked very well together,” Reggie says. “I wasn’t just a patient, I was a member of the neuro-adaptation team.” 

And now, nearly five months later, Reggie has regained a lot of function and is back to the activities he loves. The Parkinson symptoms that were wreaking havoc in his life are now largely gone or under control. “I now have the ability to expand my bandwith of support,” he says, referring to his ability to be more functional at home and at work.
 
He adds with a smile, “I still can’t play the piano.” But he has returned to his favorite hobby — building radio-controlled model aircraft from scratch, which he put on hold when his Parkinson’s overrode his ability for precise hand movements. 

DBS is a specialized procedure that can effectively treat many patients who suffer from Parkinson’s, tremors, or other movement disorders, according to Dr. Maughan. “I’m pleased our neurosciences team, along with Dr. Joel MacDonald, has embraced this technique,” he says. “Hundreds of individuals in our community suffer from the effects of Parkinson’s and other movement disorders. Deep brain stimulation is a proven technique for helping to relieve and manage the symptoms they face. I’m seeing patients whose lives have been dramatically improved through this procedure.” 

The neurosciences team at Intermountain Medical Center began performing DBS procedures earlier this year, after the hospital purchased specialized equipment for the operating room and physicians received specialized training on the DBS procedure. More information on DBS is available by calling Intermountain Medical Center’s Neurosciences Institute at 801-507-9800.