New device helping Parkinson's patients in Central Texas

"I've had tremors pretty much as long as I can remember," said Jeff Young.

40-year-old Young was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's Disease when he was just 35-years-old.
   
During these last 5 years, Young was taking 10 to 15 pills every several hours.  But due to the progressive nature of the disease, there was never any sort of routine to it.

"My body would change or the disease would progress and they would have to always chase my symptoms with the medicine and change it to at least just to give me some time to be normal," Young said.

But if he didn't keep up with the strict yet changing regiment his condition would quickly decline.

"If I don't have medicine, my body locks up and contorts in different forms.  Like my neck will actually lean down, my arms will distort in ways that aren't physically possible," Young said.

A new tool called the Duopa Infusion Pump has changed Young's life.
   
Dr. Elizabeth Peckham with Central Texas Neurology Consultants says the device was approved in early 2015.  A tube through the patient's stomach delivers medication in the form of an intestinal gel into the upper small intestine.
   
It releases the medication continuously through a programmed pump system that helps with problems like Young and other Parkinson's patients have.

"In between dosages, they have a lot of problems being able to move with tremors, and sometimes even involuntary movements in between doses.  And as time goes on that interval gets wider and wider so they have less of a therapeutic benefit.  So the rationale with this is to be able to get them more sustained benefit because the pump delivers it basically every hour getting a set dose based on your total daily dose," Dr. Peckham said.

On the day Young arrived at Dr. Peckham's office to get the pump put in, he hadn't been able to take any medication because of the surgery.  So Young says a wheelchair had to be used to bring him in.  But when the pump started working, about 15 minutes is all it took.

"I was actually able to unlock, talk just like you and I are talking right now...walk, move around with no pain," Young said.

Now, things are different.

"Pretty much every day has been, normal," he said.

When I asked Young how that makes him feel, he says the pump has helped him to feel.

"You have to realize that any type of Parkinson's, it affects your dopamine.  And dopamine is basically what makes you happy, sad, everything.  I've experience a full run of emotions now that I've never experienced in the last 10 years," Young said.

Also in Parkinson's patients, the emptying of the stomach can be unpredictable -- so that sometimes effects when medicine taken orally actually leaves the stomach and gets absorbed by the small intestine.  So according to research on the pump, this helps with that as well.

Dr. Peckham says Mr. Young is her third patient to try the pump and more patients are signed up.

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