January 25, 2018

Going Bionic

I hadn't talked about it publicly, but it's pretty obvious now if you see me in person: my hands (often) shake, my foot (often) drags. I have Parkinson's disease -- first diagnosed 12 years ago, its a slowly progressive condition. There are whole books about all the horrible potential symptoms, but  I've been fortunate (among the millions with it) that my symptoms have been relatively mild. Medications, exercise and determination mainly controlled the worst.

But progressive diseases progress, and interfere with getting on with life.

I'm mainly risk-averse, but (after declining 5 years ago) I'm now scheduled next week for a surgical treatment called "Deep Brain Stimulation": like a pacemaker, but for the brain rather than the heart, and more of a pace-disruptor than -maker.

The procedure is described as "minimally invasive"  and "reversible" and it's been done 100,000 times (300 by my surgeon). But still, it requires MRI and CAT scan to place wires to the exact spot without hitting good brain or blood vessels. (I got a Rift VR tour of some patient's anonymized brain as part of the explanation.)

Besides the wires in my brain ("Will I be able to listen to the radio without a radio?"), there will be wires under skin from scalp down to a not-so-tiny controller implanted -- wirelessly charged and programmed, battery rated to last 15 years. The "programming" usually takes months of adjustment.

I remember ~40 years ago admiring someone's programming skills, to the point I told people "he's so good I'd let him program my pacemaker". I'm not going to ask Boston Scientific to review their source code, but I do hope they aspire to better than "five nines".

Wish me luck...

1/31 added: for all the good wishes, expressed and felt: thank you, its meant a lot...