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13th April 2017

10 years after her Parkinson’s diagnosis, Inge has rediscovered her dancing shoes

Tired, stiff and suffering ever-worsening movement problems, she feared her dancing days were over. Then surgery gave Inge her rhythm back.

Inge and Bernd were serious about dancing. They competed in tournaments, led dance classes and practiced up to five times per week. But in 2003, while on holiday in France, Bernd spotted someone with Parkinson’s disease walking slowly, uncertainly, and with the stiffness that often accompanies the disease. He wondered whether Inge, who had recently been suffering from stiffness, might have the same condition. She thought he was crazy – but she saw a specialist anyway.

The news was bad. Inge was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the couple’s long dancing career was in jeopardy.

‘My health gradually got worse,’ Inge recalls. ‘I couldn’t sleep and I was taking seven pills per day to reduce the tremors. This led to stomach aches which required more medication. It was the worst period of my life.’

The last waltz?

Inge hung up her dancing shoes and worried that she was on a path of perpetual decline. The future looked dim, until her doctor told her about deep brain stimulation (DBS) – a surgical procedure that can dramatically change the prognosis for some Parkinson’s patients. To control the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, doctors implant a small device that electrically stimulates targeted areas of the brain. Not every patient is a suitable candidate for DBS but Inge’s doctor believed it would be the right option for her. She had surgery in December 2012.

‘My doctor spent two hours of her time explaining everything that would happen and showing me simulations,’ she says. ‘Of course, I was a little nervous before the operation but it was painless – and it worked.’

Recharging her batteries

The system Inge uses – which needs to be recharged regularly – is expected to last 25 years, so her future is looking bright.‘With DBS, my health has improved, I reduced the number and dosage of medications that I take, and my motor skills are much better.’ Inge cannot dance as she did 15 years previously but, now that her stiffness has significantly reduced, she can move again. And she can go dancing twice a week.

‘My whole life is better than before,’ she says. ‘I am more active and my sleep quality is far better. I am really glad that I had the operation and would certainly do it again.’ Parkinson’s threatened to steal Inge’s dancing shoes; to make her world smaller and her experience narrower. But today, when she’s not knitting or doing crosswords, she’s busy dancing, cycling, walking – she’s busy living.

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