'It's like having my life back' 

10/10/2013 00:00 
Stephen Clements is looking forward to enjoying the simple things in life again: doing up the buttons on his shirt, putting a duvet cover on, going for a jog.
Steven Clements with his partner Barbro Lundin 

All of the everyday activities he used to take for granted have become far more complicated for Mr Clements as the tremor caused by his Parkinson’s has got worse.

But now, thanks to a procedure to harmonise the circuitry in his brain, Mr Clements, 65, can set himself even loftier ambitions. On the former electrician’s ‘to do’ list is to start refurbishing crystal chandeliers and he’s even considering taking up the violin.

Earlier this month Mr Clements underwent 'deep brain stimulation' – a procedure that modulates the brain activity via electrodes. This is not a cure for Parkinson’s but in some cases can alleviate the symptoms when drug treatments no longer have the desired effect.

Mr Clements’ story was featured as part of a BBC Newsnight feature this week looking at the treatment of Parkinson's patients across the NHS.

During the surgery at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) – where Mr Clements’ was operated on awake so his tremor could be monitored - doctors switched on the electrode implanted into the brain and the tremor stopped.

He said: “It will be just like having my life back. I know it’s not a cure but I am now able to walk properly. Before, I would walk and stumble and people would think I’m drunk.

“It’s just amazing, really amazing. I can now do all of the hobbies I wanted to do and one of those was re-building crystal chandeliers. I would also like to learn to read music – my love is the violin.”

"It’s just amazing, really amazing. I can now do all of the hobbies I wanted to do and one of those was re-building crystal chandeliers."Mr Clements’ said he ‘owed everything’ to his partner Barbro Lundin who is now hoping to run the London Marathon to raise money for National Brain Appeal, the charity associated with the NHNN.

DBS is now well established as a very effective treatment for patients with a number of movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, dystonia and other forms of tremor.

During a DBS procedure, an electrode is inserted very precisely into the brain that is linked to a brain pacemaker implanted in the chest or abdominal wall. When the pacemaker is switched on, a very small electric current passes into the brain, blocking the damaging signals that cause the condition.

Ludvic Zrinzo, senior lecturer and consultant neurosurgeon, who led the operation, said: “The vast majority of patients with this condition do very well with medication and do not need to consider surgery. However, in some patients pills cannot provide the desired symptom control and quality of life starts to suffer. DBS can be very effective for such patients and surgery should be considered early, before life’s opportunities slip away. DBS is a lifelong therapy and a range of specialists is required to ensure a successful service. 

"I am privileged to work with an excellent team at Queen Square that includes other neurosurgeons, anaesthetists, neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, speech & language therapists and specialist nurses."

 

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