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...


  1. Best wishes Larry. Think of you often --- more and more as blockchain begins to make real a vision you described to me a while ago.

    1. blockchain and secret sharing have some properties in common but I think blockchain relies on long-term non-invertibility of one-way hash functions< At least how it's deployed.

  2. Best of luck, Larry! I will be thinking of you.

  3. Larry: I'm one of those who've known about your Parkinson's for some time, and I've been curious how you were doing. I've taken it as an optimistic sign over the years as I've seen your cheerful travel postings from all over the world. I'm glad that the impact has been less for you than for some, and hoping for nothing but great success from this surgery. Take care!

  4. Barbara Johnson1/25/2018 8:49 PM

    I do wish you the best of luck and the best possible outcome, dear Larry.

  5. Bruce Bowman1/26/2018 3:23 AM

    How brave, and inspiring. Good luck, Larry!

  6. Best of luck Larry. I think in your situation I would make the same choice.

  7. Larry, I admire your courage. We'll be thinking of you.

  8. Oh my, can you program it yourself or does it need repeated doctor visits? Good luck with it and take advantage of what medicine has to offer these days!

  9. Best of luck Larry. This is quite an adventure. Looking forward to hearing how it all goes!

  10. Good luck with the operation Larry!

    Of course, I wonder whether a Hypertext Deep Brain Stimulation Control Protocol (HTDBSCP) could be far behind? With all the hype around Deep Learning, I imagine you could get initial startup funding easily...

  11. All the best, Larry!

  12. Good luck, Larry. Welcome to the bionic club....