Deep brain stimulation gives Demeranville his life back after Parkinson’s diagnosis

Published 8:01 pm Saturday, June 9, 2018

In 2007, a tremor in his left hand changed Michael Demeranville’s life forever.

“The doctor diagnosed it as Parkinson’s,” he said. “I was put on medication.”

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But as the years went on, the medication wasn’t controlling the tremors, and by January, Demeranville’s doctor put him on medical leave from his job with the state.

It was time to consider some other options to control the disease, and in February Demeranville was referred to Flowood neurosurgeon Dr. Edward Cullom III, who suggested a procedure called deep brain stimulation, a procedure where electrodes are planted in a targeted area of the brain to control the tremors affiliated with Parkinson’s Disease.

“I have a neurostimulator planted right here in my chest,” Demeranville said, pointing to his collarbone area. “There’s wires that go up into the stimulator that is planted in the brain. I’ve got a remote that I keep. I can check my battery, I can turn it on and off, and I can adjust it myself if I need to.”

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, the surgery was first approved in 1997 to treat Parkinson’s disease tremors, and in 2002 for the treatment of advanced Parkinson’s symptoms.

In 2016, the procedure was approved for the earlier stages of the disease, for people who have had Parkinson’s for at least four years and have motor symptoms not adequately controlled with medication.

Demeranville, however, had his concerns about the procedure, his wife Peggy said.

“Michael was scared because he didn’t want them to do invasive surgery on his brain, especially because they had to do it in three parts,” she said. “He had heard about it before, but because of his job, we had to do something, and because of his age, he qualified.”

Demeranville said he had researched deep brain stimulation when he was first diagnosed with the disease.

“I researched different types of treatment, and I said, ‘Nobody’s going to operate on my brain.’ There was a risk potential for stroke, blood clots and death, and those were the three biggest fears I had,” he said.

When he discussed the procedure with Cullom, he said, the doctor explained the procedure and the three different surgeries involved. There was another problem, Peggy Dermeranville said.

“Our insurance kept denying it, because they saw it as elective surgery,” she said, adding it took assistance from Cullom’s office and the Parkinson’s Foundation to get the procedure covered.

Demeranville saw the doctor in February and April 2 was the first phase of the procedure at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood.

“We were surprised how many surgeons had to come in,” Peggy said. “It wasn’t an easy surgery; it was major steps.”

Attempts to contact Cullom about the surgery were unsuccessful, but according to the Mayo Clinic website, the surgeon implants a thin wire lead with a number of contacts, or electrodes, at the tips, into a specific area of the brain. In some cases one lead is implanted into each side of the brain.

A wire is placed under the skin to the neurostimulator implanted near the collarbone.

Demeranville said he was awake during the surgery, and asked to perform motor skills. The final part of the surgery involving the implantation of the neurostimulator and connecting it to the wires, his wife said, was the most painful part of the procedure.

Since the surgery, Demeranville has been almost tremor-free.

“I still have tremors in my leg,” he said. “You don’t want to turn it (the neurostimulator) up too much, because it drains the battery and there’s a tingling effect. I’m still taking medication for tremors but they cut it back. It’s a combination of the deep brain stimulation and the medication. I feel great.

“There is no cure, but there is a way to slow the progression down through the medication and deep brain stimulation.”

The only time she sees tremors now, Peggy said, is when her husband is stressed out or fails to take his medication. “Not where we used to see it.”

He carries his medication and stimulator control in a bag wherever he goes, and has to carry cards saying he is a Parkinson’s patient and he has had the deep brain stimulation procedure, because he has problems with MRIs.

“Every time I have an MRI, I have to go to River Oaks Hospital, because that’s the only place in the state that does the surgery,” he said.

Demeranville goes to the doctor every three months for a checkup and to have his battery replaced, and he is waiting to see if he can return to work.

And there are still some things he’s having to re-learn, like standing up straight.

“I have to be careful about stumbling and falling,” he said. “People with Parkinsons tend to lean forward and shuffle. And I’ve had the best caregiver in the world (looking at his wife); if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have gone through this,” he said.

“We didn’t know if he was going to have to retire on disability or what would happen and that’s what pushed us to go forward with the deep brain,” Peggy said.

“It’s nice to be able to take walks with your family and not be afraid of falling,” her husband said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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