David Akins has spent much of his life at AdventHealth. From 2002 until now, he has undergone surgery for a brain tumor, prostate cancer, herniated disks and treatments for Parkinson's disease (PD), a common neurodegenerative disease of the elderly that affects body movement.
It occurs when the portion of the brain responsible for producing dopamine a neurotransmitter that allows the brain to communicate with the body to produce movement dies or becomes impaired. The lack of dopamine disrupts this communication and instead of fluid, purposeful movement, the PD patient experiences difficulties initiating movement coupled with balance and gait disturbance.
It was 12 years ago that David was diagnosed with PD. These days, David, who lives with his wife Marti in Winter Park, has learned to cope well with the disease by attending support groups provided by AdventHealth and the Parkinson's Outreach Center. He says they have been life-changing for him, as well as, Marti. There's the dance and drama therapy programs, Parkinson's Wellness Recovery exercise classes, physical therapy and speech therapy. As a result, David stays active five days a week.
While many hospitals have neuroscience programs to treat movement disorders, like PD, AdventHealth's Parkinson's Outreach Center is the only one in Central Florida dedicated to not only providing community resources to patients but also to their loved ones.
These support groups have become our life, says Marti. We go four times a month. There's two in Longwood and two in Orlando. There are all walks of life with this common bond of Parkinson's. We consider them our family.
If it were not for these programs that AdventHealth provides, he would sit in his chair at home and waste away, says Marti. David and I are in love with AdventHealth, from the nurses all the way down to the janitors.
PD therapies fall into three categories: drug treatments, surgical procedures, and supportive care therapies. A new medication delivery option, which recently received FDA approval, is Duopa, a prescription medication for treating motor fluctuations of advanced Parkinson's. The gel version of Levodopa and Carbidopa (medications used to treat symptoms of Parkinson's and Parkinson's-like symptoms), is delivered by a portable infusion pump into the intestines. A surgical option is a deep-brain stimulation, which involves inserting an electrode into deep nuclei of the brain and connecting it to a pacemaker-like battery in the chest wall, says Arnaldo Isa, MD, neurologist at AdventHealth. It is then programmed to discharge impulses into the brain tissue and helps with symptoms like tremor and stiffness. It does not cure PD but does improve the quality of life for some time.
In Davids case, he was not a candidate for deep-brain stimulation because he had undergone previous brain surgery. However, drug treatments and supportive care therapies help him control his symptoms.
I think the key is exercise, good attitude, being consistent with meds, and a healthy diet, Dr. Isa says. David does all of these.
These days, when Davids not busy taking part in his supportive programs, he's at his drafting table painting pictures of sailboats and barns or out sailing with Marti and friends.