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Battery Blues

Posted Aug 23 2008 10:25pm

Energizer Bunny “Your battery is almost dead,” uttered Jenna, the Medtronic’s rep. She tested my Kinetra pulse generator at the deep brain stimulation (DBS) support group last Friday, July 11. Jenna discovered that the charge in my battery was perilously low, despite the fact that my surgery for Parkinson’s (PD) was a mere three years ago.

I anticipated the battery lasting four to five years, not three. In fact, my friend, Valerie’s battery, although the older Soletra model, has lasted for more than six years. Valerie, like the Energizer Bunny, keeps going and going and going. I’m jealous.

The complications to having an expiring battery were that my husband, Tom, and I had scheduled and paid for an Alaskan trip to start in ten days and that the neurosurgeon who normally performs the battery replacements surgeries was on vacation.

It’s not like I can stop off at the Battery Store and pick up a spare battery or pull out the jumper cables in the trunk of my car and charge it up. But I understand rechargeable batteries are on the DBS horizon.

I’ve heard stories of fellow DBSers whose batteries had totally expired. They end up in a sort of PD hell until the batteries are replaced. The PD symptoms return with a vengeance. An active DBSer can turn into a bed-ridden one in a matter of minutes. Someone described it as being in a big black hole and unable to get out.

I was overwhelmed by the kindness and can-do attitude of staff of Medtronic and University of Colorado Hospital who orchestrated the referral and surgery in the record-breaking time of four days.

While in my brain fog awaiting for surgery on Tuesday, I observed two look-alike pre-op nurses who described themselves as twins with different mothers. When the second nurse came on duty, she said, "Oh, you're THE DANCER" as if I was the only dancer in the world. I vaguely recall meeting the nurses in our volunteer work with other DBS patients and their families. However, I'm quite sure that I never talked to her about dancing. Perhaps she overheard a conversation that I had with a patient. Who knows?

Recovering at home, I’m receiving emails about taking it easy in preparation for our trip to Alaska.

Rest and relaxation have never been my strong suit.

Advice from the Energizer Bunny: If your doctor doesn’t normally do so, it is important to have the charge in your IPG battery periodically monitored, particularly the longer it has been implanted. Although the typical lifespan of the battery is three to five years, it varies from individual to individual depending upon your particular settings (including, amplitude, pulse width and frequency, as well as the number of active contacts utilized). And, if at all possible, try to anticipate the waning of your battery so that you have sufficient time to schedule replacement surgery. None of us wants to find ourselves in the predicament of having a dead battery, much less a dead battery far from home and appropriate medical treatment.

Bon Voyage!

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