Two-part procedure completed on W.Va. man at Winchester Medical Center
By Kim Walter
If you met Dale Sines today, it would be hard to tell that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2005.
Now, the 70-year-old Keyser, W.Va. resident, smiles, walks and talks like he did before the diagnosis.
Sines recently underwent a two-part deep brain stimulation surgery, which helps to relieve Parkinson's patients of some symptoms associated with the disease. He was the first patient of Winchester Medical Center to have the surgery.
Dr. Lee Selznick, a neurosurgeon with the Virginia Brian and Spine Center, along with Dr. Mariecken Fowler, a neurologist with Winchester Neurological Consultants, were with Sines throughout the process.
Sines was a patient of Fowler's for more than a year when she decided that he was a good candidate for the surgery, which is used only for those Parkinson's patients fitting a specific symptom profile.
"Picking the right one is key," she said Tuesday during a press conference. "The patient needed to be flexible and willing to roll with the punches, since this was our first time completing the procedure."
Parkinson's is a slowly progressing, degenerative disease that is usually associated with symptoms like tremors, slowness of movement and impaired balance and coordination; all of which result from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Dopamine has many effects on the body, including coordinated muscle movement.
Selznick said that the science and technique behind the procedure have been around for some time, but the surgery can now be done in a non-academic or non-research facility.
On Sept. 18, Selznick implanted wires with electrodes into the critical parts of Sines' brain that helps control movement. After an overnight stay at the hospital, he returned home for a week before the second phase of the surgery.
Fowler showed a video of Sines after the first surgery, which illustrated immediate improvement in his ability to open and close his fingers and hands.
"Just from that, we knew he was going to have a great outcome," said Fowler, who was in the room with Sines during his procedures.
The second part of the surgery took place on Oct. 5, when the deep brain stimulator was implanted into Sines's upper chest, connecting it to the wires already beneath his scalp.
"It's a essentially a pacemaker for the brain," Selznick said. On Oct. 8, the device was activated, and Sines reported immediate relief from hand tremors, and was able to walk more comfortably and at a quicker pace.
Fowler said Sines is now on only one medication, and that dosage will be progressively decreased.
"I spent a lot of sleepless nights trying to decide if I should get this done or not," Sines said. "If I had known the quality of these doctors, I wouldn't have hesitated one bit."
Sines now calls Fowler his "guardian angel," and Selznick a "God-sent doctor from heaven."
"To anyone with Parkinson's, I say 'Feel no fear,'" he said. "You don't have to look any further than Winchester, Va. for help. These are the finest doctors in the world, and as a team, I would recommend them to anyone."
Close to tears, Sines thanked the physicians who gave him back his life.
"I've noticed so many things ... I'm not shaking anymore," he exclaimed. "I had a hard time smiling before, but the doctors said it would get better, and it has."
Sines said his siblings quickly noticed improvement.
"My brother said there was a light shining in my eyes like light bulbs," he said. "My sister immediately noticed my speed of walking and how I could quickly walk up and down steps."
Now, Sines said he's able to return to his favorite activities, like hunting and fishing; things he struggled with before.
Even though Sines and his wife, Rose, had to travel about 60 miles from their home to Winchester many times during the process, they said it was worth it. If it wasn't offered at the local hospital, Sines would have had to travel to Charlottesville or Washington, D.C.
Now, the doctors are prepared to start screening other Parkinson's patients for the surgery, and hope to expand the service. Fowler added that it can be helpful to essential tremor patients as well.
"We're ready," Selznick said about taking on new patients.
As Sines described his progress and overall improved quality of life, Fowler beamed.
"We've done it," she said, taking Sines's hand. Fowler will continue seeing Sines to map his progress, as the stimulator will have to be adjusted since the diseases changes over time.
"Put your trust in God and your faith in these doctors," Sines said. "I'm living proof that it works."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org