Operation ends life sentence

WHAT A DIFFERENCE: Ray McCluskey  says he no longer suffers  tremors or involuntary movements following surgery. Picture: Andrew Kelly
WHAT A DIFFERENCE: Ray McCluskey says he no longer suffers tremors or involuntary movements following surgery. Picture: Andrew Kelly

RAY McCluskey has been given a second lease on life.In 2001, the Sebastopol man was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system.For almost seven years, the 73-year-old enjoyed a "very good quality of life".This was mostly due to medication which contained Levodopa, a replacement for the brain chemical dopamine which people with Parkinson's disease no longer produce in sufficient quantity for normal living.However, six months ago Mr McCluskey's condition deteriorated as he began to suffer increased involuntary movement and his medication became less effective.His neurologist, Professor David Williams, informed him that his worsening condition was caused by the side effects of his medication."The cure was becoming worse than the complaint," Mr McCluskey, a member of the Ballarat Parkinson's Support Group, said.Professor Williams then "both surprised and delighted" Mr McCluskey by suggesting he undergo a deep brain stimulation operation.The procedure helps to treat disabling neurological symptoms including tremors, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement and walking issues."I thought I was too old to have the operation," Mr McCluskey said.On October 17 this year, Mr McCluskey underwent the two-stage, seven-hour procedure at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne.As far as Mr McCluskey knows, he was the first Ballarat person to receive this revolutionary treatment.The first _ and longest _ stage of the operation involved the insertion of electrodes into Mr McCluskey's brain through a small opening in his skull.After being administered a local anaesthetic, Mr McCluskey remained awake throughout this five-hour stint.In phase two of the operation _ which was performed under a general anaesthetic _ the electrodes were connected to a battery-operated neuro stimulator below his collarbone.This was done by passing a wire under the skin of Mr McCluskey's head, neck, and shoulder.Five days later, he was released from hospital.He has never looked back."I've been given a second lease of life," he said."I don't have any tremors or involuntary movements anymore and my walking is almost back to normal."Overall, I'm doing very well and I'm feeling a lot better.""Parkinson's disease doesn't kill you _ it's life changing but not life threatening and I hope to be around for a while longer."