Operation to ease the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

Colin Price at the Glen Innes Show.
Colin Price at the Glen Innes Show.

One of Glen Innes’ leading citizens is to have “deep brain” surgery where an electrode is inserted into his brain in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease..

Councillor Colin Price, a former high school teacher, was diagnosed with the disease 10 years ago. 

He said he sees himself as coping with it rather than suffering from it. He has continued to farm for the past forty years, including with Parkinson’s. He farms to this day.

Medication – some of it very powerful and behaviour changing – enabled him to carry out the role of mayor from 2012 to 2016. The disease in not curable but the symptoms can be eased – drugs and the forthcoming surgery can prevent the shaking and unsteadiness which Parkinson’s causes.

The operation in Westmead hospital in Sydney in November involves the insertion of an electrode into his brain. The doctors experiment by moving the electrode to see what most suppresses the symptoms. Mr Price will be conscious to let the doctors know what seems to work and what doesn’t – where the placement of the electrode is most effective.

He says: “Ten years ago last month, I went to a specialist in Tamworth because I thought I had a pinched nerve in my neck. The specialist told him to talk up the corridor and back and he asked him what he thought the problem was. Colin Price said: “Pinched nerve” and the doctor replied: “No, it’s higher than that. You’ve got Parkinson’s”.

“It was a bit of a shock”, he says today, with understatement.

Of the forthcoming operation, he said: “I hope  that it will enable me to go off some of the stronger medications and will give me improved well-being”, he said. “This process has an excellent record”.

Parkinson’s is caused by the loss of cells which produce dopamine, a chemical which is necessary to allow the brain to tell the muscles what to do. Without dopamine a person’s movement is harder to control. It does not make the sufferer any less intelligent or mentally capable, rather it affects physical movement.

To try to make up the deficiency, Colin Price currently takes five dopamine tablets a day at three hourly intervals. This can result in a great variation in physical performance from shuffling to excellent coordination. At one moment, he might be shuffling but an hour later he might walk normally.

The deep brain therapy is expected to allow him to reduce his reliance on medication, but there is not yet a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.

Anxiety and stress is very draining of the medication – if he gets stressed, the medication becomes less effective.

The effects of the disease are extremely individual. Each person is affected very differently. One might be able to operate near normally with medication and get around while another could be completely immobilized despite having medication.

There is a Glen Innes Parkinson’s support group. Mr Price says that it brings what he calls Parkies together for support and to share and increase knowledge. He strongly encourages people with Parkinson’s Disease to get in touch with him.

(The town has a connection with Parkinson’s Disease in that one of the world’s foremost experts, Professor Glenda Halliday, attended Glen Innes High School.)

Mr Price is a current councillor and former mayor. When he led the council his main achievements were hailed by his colleagues as avoiding amalgamation of the Glen Innes council with the one in Tenterfield Shire, delivery of the water storage scheme at the quarries, the upgrade of Grey Street, the improvement of both the swimming pool and the recycling centre.

He says: “Ten years ago last month, I went to a specialist in Tamworth because I thought I had a pinched nerve in my neck. The spciailist told him to talk up the corridor and back and he asked him what he thought the problem was. Colin Price said: “Pinched nerve” and the doctor replied: “No, it’s higher than that. You’ve got Parkinson’s”.

“It was a bit of a shock”, he says today, with understatement.

The operation in Westmead hospital in Sydney in November involves the insertion of an electrode into his brain. The doctors experiment by moving the electrode to see what most suppresses the symptoms. Mr Price will be conscious to let the doctors know what seems to work and what doesn’t – where the placement of the electrode is most effective.

“I hope  that it will enable me to go off some of the stronger medications and will give me improved well-being”, he said. “This process has an excellent record”.

Cr Colin Price (foreground) with Cr Steve Toms.

Cr Colin Price (foreground) with Cr Steve Toms.