Penn Neurosurgery

Penn Neurosurgery

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Deep Brain Stimulation: Battling Parkinson’s Disease

Please note: This is part one of a four-part series. 

There was something very important Steve Zabielski knew, which he decided not to share with his wife for the best of reasons. So he shielded her from the truth. For five years.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone that I had Parkinson’s, not even my wife.” Steve says, nodding at the memory.

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system most commonly characterized by shaking and tremors and often accompanied by difficulty with walking, movement and coordination. Ultimately, the disease can lead to thinking and behavioral problems, the causes of which are still largely unknown.

Steve Zabielski
Historically, physicians have had some success in managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s with medication, which can supplement the lack of natural dopamine generation for a period of time.

It was medication, ironically, that led to Steve sharing his secret with his wife. “I had so many pills,” he recalls, “that they were spilling out of my pockets.”

When he finally told his wife, Yu chong, that he had Parkinson’s, she could not fight back the tears. But even before she had stopped crying, she promised him that together they would do whatever it took to fight the disease. And they would win.

His children were a different story. “They were young,” Steve says, in a voice just above a whisper. “They didn’t really understand. They couldn’t.”

“As I lay there at night, trying to figure it all out, I just kept wondering: How did this happen? Where did I go wrong? What caused this?”

There were no answers. And soon after that, there were diminishing benefits from the medications, as the sickness in Steve’s body began to overwhelm the effects of artificial dopamine in his brain.

The Zabielski family needed another solution. And soon.

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