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Shelby Hayter, patient, Parkinson’s disease

Shelby Hayter ran the Boston Marathon in 2005. A month before, she was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease. Within a few years, she could no longer run.

Walking became difficult, as her left foot began dragging. Tremors in her hands made zipping up her coat, and holding a glass without spilling difficult became difficult.  She’d be seized with rigidity and stiffness. At times, her left hand would become a claw. The disease was slowly taking away her mobility. 

“Instead of wearing a red, sparkly dress, I would wear beige so I wouldn’t attract attention. Before Parkinson’s disease, I was among the life of the party,” said Shelby.

For 11 years, the standard Parkinson’s medication helped take the tremors away and lessened the symptoms. But gradually the treatments became less effective. Her neurologist Dr. David Grimes explained a year ago that she had almost reached the end of the Parkinson’s medication regime. He suggested the next step was deep brain stimulation surgery where electrodes would be implanted in her brain, providing regular electrical pulses to help control the disease’s tremors.

“I felt at the end of the line, it was a last desperate attempt,” Shelby said.

Shelby was assessed and considered a candidate for deep brain stimulation surgery. On October 18, 2016, during an eight-hour surgery micro-electrodes were implanted in Shelby’s brain. She was awake for 90 percent of the operation. Three weeks later, she had a long involved second part of the procedure when the neurostimulator in her upper right chest was turned on, and the doctors started to determine the optimum balance between the stimulator voltage and her Parkinson’s medication. 

Six months later, Shelby is doing well. Her tremors are under control, the stiffness reduced, and she looks and feels younger. Shelby might even wear a red, sparkly dress again.