Parkinson’s Patient Credits UHealth Doctors for His Cross-Country Bike Trek

To cheers, honking horns and loud applause, Roy Roden and his wife Lynn pedaled their bikes to the Schoninger Research Quadrangle on the Miller School campus Friday, completing a 4,500-mile ride that started in Seattle last November to raise awareness and research funds for Parkinson’s disease. The Rodens – and their two dogs Oliver and Samantha – wrapped up their four-month journey, the “PD Challenge,” by thanking the UHealth doctors they credit for making the trip, and Roy’s recovered health, possible.

The Rodens embarked on their trek just months after Roy was implanted with a device that delivers Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), which is proven to reduce some of the most disabling symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. For Roden, it’s made a world of difference. With a big smile, the 55-year-old told those gathered – relatives, friends, Miller School staff and Parkinson’s advocates – that having DBS allowed him to regain his life.

As a 37-year veteran of the fitness industry, Roden was used to being very active, but his 2009 Parkinson’s diagnosis left him increasingly frustrated. His symptoms worsened over time and the effectiveness of his medications decreased, so performing basic tasks, such as feeding himself, shaving and getting dressed, grew difficult. Roden thanked his wife Lynn, who he said opened his “eyes to the possibilities in life.”

He also expressed gratitude for his UHealth team, Jonathan Jagid, M.D., associate professor of neurological surgery, and Bruno Gallo, M.D., assistant professor of neurology, who jointly performed the DBS procedure, and Carlos Singer, M.D., professor of neurology, who has cared for Roden since his diagnosis.

The DBS device, manufactured by Medtronic, works similarly to a cardiac pacemaker, delivering electrical pulses to precisely targeted areas of the brain involved in motor control and muscle function. Electrical stimulation of these areas suppresses the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects motor skills. Jagid surgically implanted the DBS device under the skin in Roden’s chest, threading very thin wires to his brain to transmit the signals to the source of symptoms. Gallo then programmed and adjusted the stimulation levels non-invasively to maximize symptom control and minimize side effects.

Jagid congratulated the Rodens on their accomplishment and for “showing Parkinson’s patients what they can achieve.” He said he has seen a clear improvement in the quality of life in many DBS patients, an observation echoed by Gallo, who said DBS should not be considered a last resort. Roden’s cross-country trek included several stops and rallies for Parkinson’s patients, which Singer described as “inspiring.”

“Because of DBS and this team of doctors,” Lynn said, “we were able to do this.”

Roden said his mission was to educate people with Parkinson’s about the opportunities to live an active life with this diagnosis. The end of this trek does not mean his mission is done. “We’re just getting started shedding light on this disease.”

Read about the Rodens’ trek in The Miami Herald.

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