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Anne H Quality of Life Restored

“I was partially awake during the surgery,” Anne recalls, “but I remembered nothing upon awakening. All I knew was that I felt as if Dr. Danish had given me my life back. I had been so debilitated by Parkinson’s, but now I can walk, write and talk again.”

A transformative procedure brings symptomatic relief for Parkinson’s patients.

When we talk about stimulating the brain, most of us think of studying a new language or performing a difficult crossword puzzle. But in the realm of medicine, there’s a procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) that’s utilized to ease the devastating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, it’s the most common surgical treatment for this disorder.

For the right candidate, this treatment has been proven to be an effective long-term therapy for the most disabling symptoms of Parkinson’s, including tremor, rigidity and muscle contractions. Luckily for Anne Hruza, a 76-year-old Parkinson’s sufferer, the only hospital that performs this procedure in New Jersey—Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) New Brunswick—is not too far from her home.

A (MULTIDISCIPLINARY) TEAM EFFORT

While DBS is brain surgery and not without risks, the advanced training and extensive experience of the DBS team at RWJUH New Brunswick greatly increases the probability of successful outcomes. Anne was treated by one of the preeminent neurosurgeons in the field, Shabbar Danish, MD, Chief of Neurosurgery, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; Director, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery and Director, RWJUH Gamma Knife Center; Associate Professor, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Danish is part of the hospital’s unique multidisciplinary team, which includes neurologists, neurophysiologists, psychiatrists, rehab physicians and speech therapists.

Dr. Danish is well known for the excellence and humanity of his care. He has been the recipient of two five-year anniversary awards in the Patient’s Choice and the Compassionate Doctor category, honoring the mastery of his care and his bedside manner.

When Anne met with Dr. Danish, she had already suffered from Parkinson’s for more than 15 years and felt she was out of options. Her life had grown so diminished that she and her husband, Denis, were considering placing her in a nursing home.

“I fell often. I had no balance and suffered from freezing, where my feet wouldn’t move,” says Anne. “It was difficult for me to write. My speech was very slurred and I cut off the ends of my words. Although I’m a chemist by trade, I also like to paint watercolors, but I could no longer handle the brushes. In general, I had little or no control of my body around 80 percent of the time.”

BACK IN CONTROL

Dr. Danish performed DBS surgery on Anne on Sept 6, 2016, a date she has no difficulty remembering as it’s her wedding anniversary. Electrodes were implanted into specific areas of Anne’s brain. These electrodes produce electrical impulses that either regulate abnormal impulses or affect certain cells and chemicals within the brain. The amount of stimulation is controlled by a pacemaker-like device placed under the skin of her chest. A wire under the skin connects this device to the electrodes in the brain and delivers electrical signals to it. These electrical pulses help control symptoms of Parkinson’s, including tremor, slowed movement and stiffness. “I was partially awake during the surgery,” Anne recalls, “but I remembered nothing upon awakening. All I knew was that I felt as if Dr. Danish had given me my life back. I had been so debilitated by Parkinson’s, but now I can walk, write and talk again.”

Anne uses her remote device to control the voltage that stimulates her brain. “When the voltage is adjusted correctly for my body, I feel nothing. If it’s too high or low, I might have minor side effects. Each month, I return and receive a tune-up. Sometimes the body tries to reject what the battery is telling it to do, sensing that it’s a foreign object and trying to override the signal. But I had the procedure done in 2016 and it’s still 90 percent effective.”

Dr. Danish believes that not enough Parkinson’s patients are aware of this transformative surgery. Patients don’t receive the information they need, or they get sucked into the black hole of Google,” he says. He and the team at RWJUH New Brunswick are dedicated to getting the word out. Apart from patient outreach, the team also is committed to innovation. Recently, it performed the first fully robotic DBS procedure in New Jersey.

PAYING IT FORWARD

As a testament to her gratitude for her life-changing surgery, Anne decided that she wanted to make a dramatic gesture. “I changed my will to donate to Dr. Danish and his colleagues’ work. I have no children, and in my will have donated to further his research into Parkinson’s and support his work training new doctors.”

As for Dr. Danish, DBS is one of his most rewarding surgeries. “It really is a procedure that can transform a life,” he says. “It can allow patients to get out of wheelchairs, stretchers or nursing home beds. As with Anne, the personal impact can be remarkable. She has even resumed painting again.”

In fact, her new paintings are showcased throughout Dr. Danish’s office—a reminder of the power and potential of this procedure to change lives. “You would never believe that these beautiful paintings were done by someone suffering from Parkinson’s,” Dr. Danish says with pride.

For more information on RWJUH New Brunswick’s DBS treatment program for Parkinson’s disease, call 732.235.7733.