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Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center's Youngest Patient Praises New "Sci-Fi" Procedure
Date:7/12/2013

PHOENIX, July 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- First experiencing symptoms at just 29-years-old and diagnosed with Parkinson's at age 34, Tommy Zuleger is the youngest patient ever treated at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix and he says a new "sci-fi" procedure has given him his life back.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130712/LA46804)

The real estate executive recently underwent a new procedure at Barrow called Asleep Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), which involves surgically implanting a medical device, called a "brain pacemaker," while the patient is under general anesthesia. In select brain regions, DBS has provided remarkable therapeutic benefits for otherwise treatment-resistant movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, tremor and dystonia.

"At first it was nothing major; my right hand would shake," recalls Zuleger, now 38. "But over time the shaking grew worse, I started to feel stiffer than a thirty-something. At thirty-four-years-old, I learned I had Parkinson's."

Parkinson's disease is generally thought of as a disease affecting the elderly, but the National Parkinson Foundation reports more people are being diagnosed with the disease at a younger age. Approximately 10 percent of the one million people living with the disease in the United States are under the age of 40.

Zuleger says he was initially in shock. "I wasn't upset that I had Parkinson's. I was upset because I had it and there wasn't a thing I could do to stop it," he adds.

Though Zuleger had heard of DBS, he explains that at first it wasn't something he seriously considered as an option. "Brain surgery was too scary, especially if I had to be awake while they did it."

By 2012, Zuleger's symptoms had begun to worsen.
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SOURCE St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center
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