Deep brain stimulation gives new life to man suffering from Parkinson’s disease

Posted at 11:29 PM, May 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-12 23:29:51-04

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- After living with Parkinson's disease for 15 years, Earl Smith was given a miracle after undergoing deep brain stimulation.

"It's a type of neurosurgery where we use electrodes to place them on the brain, and we put them in a particular place and it helps them control the symptoms," said Dr. Barbara Pickut, Medical Director for the Parkinson's and Movement Disorders Program at Mercy Health. "The improvement is seen immediately, it's seen in the operating room."

It's a procedure that Smith knew came with risks.

"When somebody mentions brain surgery, it's like, 'Lord I'd rather die.' I'd rather die than have brain surgery," said Smith.

However, after years of agony, Smith knew it was something he had to do.

"It sounds terrible, but right now I'm listed as terminally diseased, because there's no cure for Parkinson's," said Smith.

Parkinson's disease robbed Smith of living a normal life beginning in 1999. It's a dark memory his wife Vernae remembers vividly.

"He was having a hard time walking, shaking at night," said Vernae. "I would have to hold down his foot at night because it would shake so bad. He would also freeze up at night, and I would have to help him get dressed."

Suffering from severe tremors, Smith was forced to retire early. He said his disorder made his body a prison.

"I couldn't do anything. My arm was just shaking so much and my right leg would just shake."

After turning 50, Smith's battle with the disease took a turn for the worse. So he reached out to Mercy Health St. Mary's Medical Center, and he found answers in a procedure called deep brain stimulation.

After a fast recovery, Earl can do things he could only dream of doing 10 years ago. Today, he loves to ride his motorcycle and performs household chores for his wife.

Smith and his wife now have hope and a second chance.

"I was scared, and I'm glad i did it," said Smith. "I've got a new lease on life."