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Jeff Erb

At 44 years old, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD). Until that time, I was extremely healthy and wasn't going to let an "old man's disease" stop me. I continued to play basketball with guys half my age. But slowly, my symptoms began to worsen. I couldn't read my own handwriting and the stiffness in my neck became troublesome.

At 52, I underwent deep brain stimulation surgery (DBS) surgery. I can say with confidence that without DBS, I would not be walking today. I figured this out the hard way when I temporarily turned off the battery.

Though the surgery ended my basketball days since the new wire that ran from the battery in my chest up my neck to my brain meant no more contact sports, I had immediate noticeable improvements in my gait and handwriting. 

I began to work on my little 12-acre farm. Farm work gave rise to a new type of active lifestyle. Every day I walk a half-mile round-trip with our two dogs down to the pasture to give grain to our horses and I walk about 600 paces to get the mail. On a regular basis I hand mow the grass, shovel gravel that gets washed off the driveway from storms and cut some downed branches with a power saw. Last month it felt good to be able to help put 180 hay bales in the barn. Currently I’m painting the board fence around our turnout paddock for the horses. This is my exercise. 

My pedometer says I take about 9,000 steps a day even though I never just "go for a walk." This week I logged an average of 12,907 steps (about six miles) a day. I’m not a full-time farmer, but working on my farm allows me to have an active lifestyle, which keeps me functioning so well with PD.

DBS and my refusal to lead a sedentary lifestyle have saved my life. Our two horses (Foxey and Tilden), two dogs (Paxton and Charlie) and four cats (Sprite, Elizabeth, Sassy and Pepper), not counting the wild animals like deer, raccoons, opossums, turtles, foxes, turkeys and snakes that also call our land home, don't see me as disabled. I am one lucky man who has a super caregiving wife, Daine. I’m thankful for her patience, especially now that my voice has weakened, which can make it frustrating to have a conversation with me.

Refuse to sit around feeling sorry for yourself. Get active and ask your doctor about whether if you are a good candidate for DBS surgery.

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