Packing Her Bags

Packing Her Bags

Woman walking in balance smiling with colored trendy style poncho.Elizabeth Barnes worked as a respiratory care practitioner for Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance for 40 years. However, when she retired and was diagnosed with the debilitating movement disorder Parkinson’s disease, she wasn’t aware that the hospital had a partnership with one of the leading neuroscience practices on the West Coast: Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI). 

Barnes switched her care to PNI about a year after her diagnosis and is glad she did. 

“I have lived in the South Bay my entire life and thought I knew just about everything regarding available resources. I had no knowledge that this world-class institute is right here,” she says. “They are unbelievable. It has been a life-changing experience.” 

Her care at PNI included a type of surgery called deep brain stimulation (DBS). Parkinson’s is a nervous system disorder that impacts movement and typically worsens over time. Patients have difficulty moving and may shake and have muscle stiffness and trouble with balance. There is no cure for the disease, although many patients are helped by the medication levodopa. Barnes, however, couldn’t tolerate the medication. 

“I got side effects that would increase my symptoms, such as involuntary movements,” she says. “Then, one day, I had a conversation at PNI about deep brain stimulation. It stopped me in my tracks. I truly believed that DBS was an end-of-life-treatment type of thing. I had no idea that it actually works better the earlier it’s used. Nothing had worked, so I didn’t think DBS would work either.” 

Barnes was nearly bedridden when she decided to undergo deep brain stimulation. The procedure involves inserting electrodes into certain regions of the brain to generate electrical impulses that control the abnormal movement associated with Parkinson’s. The pulses are controlled by a programmable generator that is placed under the skin of the chest. The procedure was performed in October 2019 by Jean-Philippe Langevin, MD, director of the Restorative Neurosurgery and Deep Brain Stimulation Program at PNI–South Bay. 

“What was, at that time, the biggest decision of my life also turned out to be one of the best. Having the surgery right here at Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance, rather than downtown, was so important to my sense of confidence and comfort,” says Barnes. “I went from not being able to rollover in bed to being able to pick up my suitcase, put it in the car, drive to the airport and fly to Connecticut. Right away, on the table after surgery, I sensed a difference. I could move my arm.” 

Barnes credits the care of Dr. Langevin and PNI for turning her life around.

“Dr. Langevin was so patient about answering any questions. He had a calmness about it that helped me to trust him and his ability. And at PNI I could have all the tests done while I was there without having to leave the building. It’s just been an incredible experience for me.” 

For more information on movement disorders, call 844-925-0942.