Surgery to reduce Parkinson's disease symptoms performed in Houston

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - Glen Walber went to Houston Methodist Hospital looking for hope and relief from tremors caused by Parkinson's disease that kept him from sleeping and playing his beloved tennis.

"When I had tremors I couldn't play tennis. I couldn't go on vacation. I couldn't go to San Antonio Fiesta Texas. I had a hard time sleeping because my body was moving at night and around Thanksgiving I couldn't even write my own name," said the computer programmer.

"Watching him not be able to play tennis I think was the hardest part," said Judy Walber, his wife of 53 years.

The 75-year-old decided to take a risk to regain his quality of life and underwent surgery for deep brain stimulation at Houston Methodist -- a surgical treatment proven to reduce some of the symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease.

"First step we just put electrodes. Two weeks later we put a battery. He has a rechargeable battery basically that means it will last a long time and hopefully in his case a lifetime. He has a very small pacemaker-type device that controls both electrodes on both sides of the brain. The first procedure if everything goes right is a 1-day procedure and the second phase is outpatient procedure if there are no complications," said Dr. Stanley Fisher, Neurologist at Houston Methodist Neurological Institute.

The neurologist said one out of 100 patients has a problem after surgery and the biggest issue is risk of stroke.

On the day we joined the Walbers at Houston Methodist Dr. Fisher was activating the electrodes to find out if the surgical risk would pay off.

"I am electrically stimulating his brain. I go up on voltage and look for improvement and look for side effects," said his doctor.

Walber was run through a series of tests while Dr. Fisher adjusted the voltage and looked for improvement and side effects.

"His tremor stopped dead and that is rather unusual and very rewarding when that happens," said Dr. Fisher.

His wife cheered as you could tell his tremor slowed.

"I am sorry, I am emotional now, but I am so happy," said his wife.

"Feels like a brand new life. I feel great. I feel sensational," added Walber pumping his fist.

"He chose all the risks in order to have a better quality of life. He wants to return to his tennis game and wants to be able to feed himself not only at home but in public. He took a risk and it paid off," said a smiling Dr. Fisher. "I don't know how good his tennis game was before but he will have control to play tennis."

A few weeks after we met Walber his wife sent us a picture of Glen holding a tennis racquet and hitting balls against a backboard on a tennis court.

His wife says he still has a little tremor but he is 100 times better. He goes to therapy and in for adjustments as they hope for even more improvement.

"What I usually tell patients is look at what is the best you are doing on medication and that is what you will be able to achieve but consistently," said Dr. Fisher.

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