The Parkinson's Appeal for Deep Brain Stimulation


Amy Westall

Amy WestallAmy Westall (19), from Sussex Avenue, suffers from a rare neurological condition called dystonia which causes uncontrollable muscle spasms.

She thought she would never walk again but pioneering new surgery, placing electrodes inside the brain, has changed her life.

She said: "As I got older I got worse and life in general just became very difficult because I couldn't sit still at all and on really bad days I'd have to eat my meals lying down on the floor. I also found getting to sleep was quite difficult but in the end my body got so tired it just switched off. The quality of my life wasn't very good and I wasn't very happy. Then when I was about 17 the surgery was put to me. I was obviously a bit dubious about it but I was at the end of my tether and I thought I have got to do it because I have got hope and if I don't I'll wonder what could have happened."

Amy agreed to the deep brain stimulation at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, which carried a three per cent chance of stroke or death.

Before the operation
Amy before
the operation
Playing wheelchair tennis
Playing Wheelchair tennis
with Greg Rusedski 1998

"The team at the National were just wonderful, though. I owe them a lot and I'm very grateful to them because they have changed my life."

2 days after the operation
Amy playing Jenga 2 days
after the operation
4 days after the operation
Practising walking 4 days
after the operation

When she came round from the NHS operation, which took several hours, she was shaking and was terrified the surgery had failed. The doctors reassured her it was just the effects of the anaesthetic and sent her to intensive care overnight.

"The next morning I said to the nurse 'I feel wonderful, please can I go back to the ward'. And the next day I got up and I walked. I had been in a wheelchair for seven years."
Now she is making up for lost time, learning to drive, going to aerobics, taking yoga classes and applying for jobs.
Amy said: "I go walking sometimes with my next door neighbour's dogs which is really nice. I have got so much more freedom now. I can go into town when I want to. It's just great. There are just so many things I can do. I can make a hot drink without worrying. In every sense it's been positive, there have been no negatives."

2 days after the operation
Presenting her tennis wheelchair
to Mark Bullock of the ITF
4 days after the operation
Pulse generator placed
in Amy's chest


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