News

Debbie loving life after surgery

Debbie Molloy tells of her 16-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Photo: JoJo Newby
Debbie Molloy tells of her 16-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Photo: JoJo Newby

THERE'S something different about Debbie Molloy - and it's not just the hair cut.

A Parkinson's disease sufferer for 16 years, Debbie became dominated by pain and spasms in the latter half of last year to the point that she was lucky to have one hour of muscle control per day.

The rest of the time she was either "kicking out" and forced to stay still or stretch to overcome the pain or "kicking in" where her medication was overstimulating her nervous system and her body went into uncontrollable movements.

Having tried "everything" to deal with the debilitating disease, Debbie's only option was to have deep brain stimulation surgery - a revolutionary procedure in which a neurotransmitter is placed on each hemisphere of the brain and connected by wire to a battery back between the skin and the rib of the chest.

With the help of a massive fundraising effort from the Clarence Valley, led by Debbie's closest friend Trinette Reimer, the operation went ahead on February 10 this year.

The eight-and-a-half-hour operation at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital left Debbie with 37 staples in her scalp, two holes in her skull and a bit of extra hardware.

The battery pack now just above Debbie's right breast has two wires running under her skin and up the right side of her neck to her scalp where they go their separate ways to the neuro- stimulators on either side of her brain.

Debbie recharges her battery pack for 2.5 hours a week and it will need to be replaced in 2021.

Asked how she felt these days and Debbie replied enthusiastically "fantastic".

"I can do all the things I wasn't able to do for so long - I go for long walks and I am busy making my thank you cards," she said.

"I drove to Hervey Bay the other week - I couldn't even sit in the car for that long before.

"I just feel calmer within myself."

Debbie said she's still on some medication but she sometimes forgot to take it because she wasn't displaying any troubling symptoms.

Debbie's husband Lewis has even done some tweaking of the neurostimulators to get rid of some cramping in Debbie's right hand.

An external control box can determine the level of electronic stimulation emitted by the neurostimulators.

Though there is still some further fine tuning to be done to help correct her walk, Debbie said repeatedly the improvement she had experienced was "amazing".

Debbie said she would be ever grateful to the fundraising efforts that allowed her to have her life-changing operations.

The fundraising exceeded the initial aim of $20,000 with a $46,000 grand total and Debbie said the excess funds would be used for her ongoing treatment including "tweaking" with her doctors at $500 per consultation.

"People's generosity is just astounding," she said.

Debbie said she even took the supportive posters made by some McAuley students with her to Sydney for the operation.

More information can be found on deep brain stimulation, which is also used to treat Tourette's syndrome, dystonia and tremor, at sydneydbs.com.

Topics:  brain surgery, debbie molloy, fundraising, help, operation



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