Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why I'm looking forward to 2009: Good news for Alaskans with Parkinson's Disease

Hold me back!

It's all I can do to restrain myself from from typing the following news in all capital letters, followed by multiple exclamation points. Why am I so jazzed? Because it looks like we are getting very close to what I thought was an impossible dream. We hope to bring up a Parkinson's Disease specialist to see patients here in Anchorage on a quarterly basis.

His name is Dr. Alec Glass. Dr.Glass works as a Parkinson's specialist at University of California San Francisco, I will post a look at his training at the bottom of this update.

How close are we?
Here is an excerpt from an email he recently sent.

"I have submitted my application for an AK license which should be processed in early 2009—hopefully!... I am excited to kick this off and hope that we can improve PD care for patients up there."

This is a terrific opportunity for Alaskans to see a first-rate, well-trained and personable neurologist without the hassle and expense of traveling thousands of miles to find expert care. Which brings up the following concern: Dr. Glass will need enough patients to make this worth the effort and cost. This is where you come in. How do you make an appointment? Dr. Frank Ellenson is the local neurologist who will be hosting Dr. Glass. So, any of you who could benefit from this please arrange a visit through Dr. Ellenson's office. You will likely need a referral from your current provider.

A big thank-you to all involved in getting us to this point. I especially need to single out our visiting support group member Joanne Power, who got this ball rolling.

In conclusion,just let me add WOOOOO-HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the contact info:

Alaska Neurology Center. 3851 Piper Street Suite T345. Anchorage AK 99508. 1-866-977-2562 Phone/Fax.
Alaska Neurology Center can be contacted through their web site.

Here is more information on Dr. Glass.

Current Position

September 2006- present Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology


1993-1997 Trinity University, San Antonio B.A. Cum Laude,Psychology

1997-2001 University of Texas, San Antonio M.D.

2001-2002 Tufts-SEMC, Boston Intern Internal Medicine

2002-2005 Tufts-NEMC, Boston Resident Neurology

2005-2006 Mayo Clinic, Rochester Fellow Movement Disorders

Certification & Licensure

2005. Medical Licensure, Minnesota
2006. Medical Licensure, California
2007. ABPN Board Certification, Neurology

Honors and Awards

2004 AAN travel award for outstanding resident teacher.

1997 Cum Laude with Departmental Honors

Scientific Society Roles and Memberships


2001-present American Medical Association

2001-present American Academy of Neurology

2005-present International Movement Disorders Society

2007-present American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Service to Professional Organizations:

2005-present Member, Ethics committee, American Academy of Neurology

Keywords/Areas of Interest:

Parkinson’s Disease, Movement Disorders, Dystonia, Botulinum Toxin, Tremor, Deep Brain Stimulation, Electrophysiology of Movement Disorders

Professional Activities

Clinical Care, Movement Disorders: I see patients with various movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, myoclonus, tremor and more unusual movement disorders 4 half-days per week. . Additionally I spend 3 half days per month in the Botulinum Toxin lab in which Botulinum therapy is administered for dystonia, spasticity, and sialorrhea. One day per week is spent seeing patients with various sleep disorders in the UCSF Sleep Disorders Clinic at Mount Zion. One day per month is spent in the clinical Movement Disorders electrophysiology laboratory in which surface and needle EMG are used in conjunction with various other modalities in the evaluation of various complex movement disorders (myoclunus, non-routine tremors) Finally, I assist in the care of patients treated surgically for Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and tremor.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pete's People with Parkinson's Portraits No. 7, James Doohan

Yes, the man who played Scotty on Star Trek, James Doohan had PD, among other things. Apparently, Dr. McCoy's tricorder, while promising in early trials proved ineffective for treating Parkinson's Disease. The quest goes on.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Music to accompany Parkinson's Disease

(Dedicated to my brother Dave.)

Music can move us in many ways, emotional, physical and spiritual. Even though I am a hardcore skeptic, music moves me closer to God than any metaphysical "proof." The ineffable power of music is parallel to our conception of an all-powerful invisible God. Both are mysteries and both move us to joy, fear, awe and love.

When I hear praise sung by the Blind Boys of Alabama, or hear the anguish of separation from the divine lamented by William Byrd in "Bow Thine Ear Oh Lord" I'm closer to belief than the words of any preacher can bring me. Perhaps that's why some sects ban music. We can't have the choir director showing up the pastor.

Music also makes us shake our booties. Which is the more common reason that religions ban it. But the human urge to boogie to the beat is deep as a funkadelic bass part. And according to "Musicophilia" by neurologist Oliver Sacks, humans are the only creatures known to respond to rhythm by joining in with their own (often unconscious) toe-tapping time keeping. For us, it's as natural as breathing.

Symphonies are even written in "movements." And since movement is the heart of our concern as people with Parkinson's Disease, music is our ally. So here is an assortment of music that makes me move, one way or another. It's dopamine for the soul.

To warm up with something that will make a dead man stomp his feet, Cue up the "Yankee's Revenge" medley by David Bromberg, an ebullient breakneck journey through some well-known fiddle tunes. If Bromberg isn't your cup of tea, try Bothy Band's "Green Groves of Erin/Flowers of Red Hill medly. Then swing into "South Australia" by the Pogues. And as long as our Irish is up, detour over to "Gloria" by Van Morrison If that isn't reet pateet, I just don't know what is.

How do you follow Van Morrison? If you're Barrence Whitfield, you don't ask that question, you just cut loose with "Bip Bop Bip". After which, it's obvious you step aside for Professor Longhair and his spectacular piano playing on "Hey Little Girl". Then change direction, take a journey into a man's soul while Albert King performs "As the Years Go Passing by" It moved Eric Clapton so much he used the melody for the hook riff on "Layla."

Ready for a little fear and trembling? Get a load of Etta James singing "God's Song," written by that unassuming subversive Randy Newman. Hey, trembling is motion!

It might be wise to beat a hasty retreat to Blind boys of Alabama. You can't go wrong with anything on their "Spirit of the Century" album, but for the sheer unexpected brilliance of it, let's go with "Down in the Hole" written by Tom Waits. Then, if you're not afraid to have your heart broken, listen to Linda Thompson's elegant version of Waits' majestic anti-war plaint "Day After Tomorrow." Of course the Waits version is devastating, too. Your call.

Next we reach the still point in the center of a turning wheel where Martin Carthy sings a spell-binding acapella song of the cycle of the seasons called "The January Man."

Then cut loose with Richard Thompson Singing "Hard On Me." The words to this song could easily be about Parkinson's, but it's the unworldly, eloquent guitar solos that really express the rage and frustration of living in a body that refuses to move. His reckless playing lays waste to everything in a way that is frightening as it is cathartic.

Left amidst the chaos that music can describe, we find that it also offers grace. Where? Look to the work of J. S. Bach. In Bach, stateliness combines with surprise, joy with beauty, brilliant craft with exuberant inspiration. My brother credits Bach's music with saving his life as he battled depression. My Dad explained Bach's music this way "He was talking to God." And who can doubt that God listened?

Friday, December 5, 2008

It DOES take a brain surgeon, part 3: Drill, Baby, Drill!

The Armchair expert boldly returns to the topic of Deep Brain stimulation.

Can we assume your interest in Deep Brain Stimulation goes beyond idle curiosity?

Unfortunately, yes. I plan to get evaluated as a candidate for the procedure this January in San Francisco. If the evaluation is satisfactory to all parties, it won't be long before they screw an immobilizing "halo" of steel to my shaved skull, drill two holes, and introduce hair-thin wires into my little gray brain. Did I mention that I will be wide awake much of the time?

Sufferin' Mother of... why in the world would you endure such an operation?

A: I now experience extended periods when I "freeze", my feet refuse to move, my voice becomes soft and slurred, my muscles become stiff and sore. I lose facial expression and, though consumed with frustration, am unable to storm about, yell and throw things. Also I have fallen a few times. The falls happen when I can't accept that my feet won't move, and I try to walk. Further, there is the matter of keeping to my pill schedule (at least one pill every waking 2 hours) And how about this- it appears the operation slows progression of PD in animals. Which I'll admit to being.

Q: They do this while you're awake?

A: Hey, would you let somebody rummage around your skull while you were asleep? I think not! Besides they need the patient to be awake and responsive so that they can assure the location of the implanted wire is ideal. This is confirmed by running a wee charge through the wire and asking the patient to perform simple motions.

Q: Simple motions, like writhing in pain?

A: It's the darndest thing, but while the brain senses damage to other parts of the body as pain, it doesn't feel pain when it takes physical punishment itself.

Q: What a weird organ!

A: True, but I wouldn't part with it. I have time for one more question in this installment... yes, you in the back?

When the operation is complete, will they seal the two holes they drill in your forehead with a couple of plugs that will cause you to resemble "Hellboy"?

A: According to my wife, yes.