AUSTIN, Texas - 40-year old Jeff Young was says he’s had tremors for as long as he can remember.
He was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s Disease when he was just 35.
For the last 5 years, Young has been taking about 10-15 pills every few hours. But, he started experiencing “off” time, or a lag time in between taking his medication. This is common in people with later-stage Parkinson’s.
“My body would change, or the disease would progress,” Young says. “And they would have to always chase my symptoms with the medicine and change it to at least, some time, to be normal.”
But it was hard to get into a routine, and a lull between doses would allow his symptoms to flare up.
“If I don’t have medicine,” Young says, “My body locks up and contorts in different forms. Like, my neck will actually lean down and my arms will distort in ways that aren’t physically possible. It’s painful, but I’m well aware of what’s happening. It’s just, I can’t move.”
Young is getting help from a new tool for Parkinson’s Diseae called the Duopa Infusion Pump. It delivers a gel form of carbidopa/levodopa directly into Young’s small intestine. The delivery is continuous, stretching out the relief Young gets from the medication.
Dr. Elizabeth Peckham, with Central Texas Neurology Consultants, says the device helps eliminate the lag time between dosages many later-stage Parkinson’s patients can experience.
“In between dosages, they have a lot of problems being able to move, with tremors and sometimes even involuntary movements between doses,” Dr. Peckham says. “And, as time goes on, that interval gets wider and wider. So, they have less of a therapeutic benefit. So, the rational with this is to be able to get them more sustained benefit because the pump delivers it (the medication) basically every hour, getting a set dose based on your total daily dose.”
The day Young’s pump was turned on, he was recovering from surgery. But, within about 15 minutes, he says, he could feel the medication taking effect.
“I was actually able to unlock, and talk just like you and I are talking right now,” Young says. “(I could) walk, move around, with no pain.”
The pump has made his life easier, Young says.
“Pretty much every day has been normal,” he says.