EBENSBURG - Michael Dodson feels like a new man - or as he puts it "a newborn baby."
Dr. Donald Whiting performed deep brain stimulation (DBS) on Dodson, 52, of Ebensburg this summer. Dodson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1998 in July at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Whiting, an Altoona native, is vice chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at AGH and surgical director at the Center for Spasticity and Movement Disorders in Pittsburgh.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Michael Dodson had deep brain stimulation surgery in June.
He is best known for his work with DBS, in which electrodes are implanted within the brain to deliver a continuous low electric current to the target area. DBS is used to treat people with movement disorders like Parkinson's, essential tremor and dystonia.
"He has given me my life back. I feel like a newborn baby," said Dodson, a 1978 graduate of Central Cambria High School.
"That is the most common quote we get from the patients. It is so rewarding," Whiting said.
Dodson's sister, Kathy Tracy of Zelienople, and father, Raymond Dodson of Ebensburg, were amazed at the results.
"It has completely changed the quality of his life. It gave him his life and his ability to live, to function day-to-day back," Tracy said. "It is amazing what it has done for him. Dr. Whiting is a miracle worker; he is a wonderful man."
"A neighbor who came by to see him was shocked and started to cry," Raymond Dodson said.
"He said it was a miracle, that God gave you your son back."
Michael Dodson moved to California in 1980 and had been working as a circuit board manufacturer at South Bay Circuits in San Jose, where he had worked for about 10 years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in October 1998 - on the same day actor Michael J. Fox announced that he had the disease.
"As a project engineer, I had to do a lot of typing; my hand started to tremble a lot. At first, I thought it was carpal tunnel. My hand got stiff. I saw a doctor who thought it was essential tremor which mirrors Parkinson's. She also had an MRI done for Wilson's disease, a genetic disease, but ruled that out," Michael Dodson said.
He was diagnosed by Dr. Stasha Gominak, a neurologist at El Camino Hospital in Mountainview, Calif.
"As time went on, the symptoms got worse. I was 38 and she said, 'Don't panic.' She said there are a lot of medicines coming around. She told me about the DBS which was new at the time; 14 years later I had the surgery," Michael Dodson said.
He was placed on high doses of several medications which caused side effects such as stuttering which made it difficult for him to do his radio show - the Myke Destiny Big Guitar Show.
One medication caused him to start gambling.
"I had never played the lottery before," he said.
In 2004, his company moved to Arizona and his position was phased out.
"When people found out I had Parkinson's, no one would hire me. I had 25 years of experience in the industry," Michael Dodson said. "I was on unemployment and then got disability before I came back home."
He returned home in 2005 and in 2006 started to see Dr. Susan Baser, a neurologist at AGH.
"Dr. Baser told me about Dr. Whiting about two years ago. She mentioned the DBS and how successful he has been. She recommended me for surgery," Michael Dodson said.
"Typically the best candidates are younger patients who have a constellation of symptoms such as tremors and dyskinesias which respond best to the surgery. He also had a positive attitude," Baser said.
He was excited about the surgery.
"I couldn't wait to have it done. The people at AGH said Dr. Whiting is amazing and they had seen him perform miracles on people," Michael Dodson said.
The surgery was done on July 23 and 30.
"They drilled two nickel-sized holes in my head and put electrodes into my brain. It was like having a root canal on your head. I was awake the whole time," Michael Dodson said. "On July 30, they put me under. They connected wires from the brain to two stimulators implanted in my chest."
After surgery, he was sent to HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital where he underwent physical, occupational and speech therapy for 11 days. He returned home Aug. 10 where he lives in an apartment above his brother Jim Dodson's business office.
Jim Dodson sees a big difference in his brother.
"He can now walk up and down the stairs. Before he shuffled and couldn't lift his feet. His motor skills have improved," Jim Dodson said. "His facial expressions came alive after the surgery."
His father agrees.
"It has changed his whole disposition. He can now ride a bike, walk up a hill and go up and down steps normally, things he couldn't do before," Raymond Dodson said. "By looking at him now, you would never know there was something wrong with him. You can't imagine it is the same guy. He wants to do things he didn't do before. It is a miracle, it really is."
Whiting said the surgery went well.
"He is nearly off all of the medicines. His voice sounds so much better, which is good for his radio work. He is almost back to living a normal life," Whiting said.
"I saw him about a month ago and he looked great. He was very animated, moving well and had no tremors and no dyskinesias," Baser said. "It is very rewarding when a treatment can do that for a patient. It is unbelievable."
DBS can have long-lasting effects.
"It is not a cure but it can be effective forever unless the disease progresses beyond what we can control," Whiting said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.