Adelaide Man Receives ‘Pacemaker For The Brain’ To Combat Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease

Todd Murfitt was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease, and within two, his symptoms had progressed so rapidly that he felt like he was walking in quicksand.

The high school principal at St John the Baptist Primary School in Adelaide, Australia, was 35 when he was diagnosed with the disease.

He’d started to notice unusual and violent tremors in his fingers while typing, but he never thought it could be anything serious.

He told ABC News:

“I turned up at the neurologist appointment not really knowing what to expect, certainly not expecting any big news.”
“It was a bit of a surprise to find out, after a 20-minute consult, that the neurologist was fairly certain I had young-onset Parkinson’s.”

His symptoms included a persistent ringing sound in his eyes, internal and external physical tremors, and loss of motor control, according to Murfitt.

A man with a beard laying down with his eyes closed in a hospital bed

He said:

“That moment of being told ‘Todd, I think you’ve got Parkinson’s’ is kind of surreal. I was really at that point [where] it was so far off the radar that it hit me with quite a bit of shock.”

Murfitt’s Pace-Making Surgery

And within two years, his condition had worsened. His motor functions deteriorated rapidly.

His medication even became ineffective, and the doctors suggested to him that he undergo a Deep Brain Stimulation treatment.

Brain Surgery While You’re Awake?

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) treatment is a surgical procedure used to treat motor-related symptoms of several neurological illnesses, including Young Onset Parkinson’s disease.

The surgery is performed while the patient is awake but under an anesthetized state. However, the patient could still feel the pain during the procedure.

Part of the treatment involves the implantation of tiny electrodes in the part of the brain that controls motor function, to reduce the motor-related symptoms of the illness.

Todd Murfitt with a scar on his head kept together with staples after brain surgery

Murfitt’s condition became even worse after the doctors advised him to stop taking his medication in preparation for the procedure.

His family, neighbors, friends, and community raised over $40, 000 to cover for his medical expenses.

And to express their love and support to Murfitt, his niece, together with his three brothers, also shaved their heads in front of all the kids at his school.

Murfitt said:

“My girls were sitting there, and instead of seeing dad sitting there getting his head shaved for surgery, they saw their uncles, they were sitting with their cousins, and it was just fun.”

Doctors Used New Technology During Murfitt’s Surgery

The medical team used new techniques for the first time. This was due to Murfitt’s young age, meaning that the electrodes will need to be changed more frequently.

Dr. Wilcox said:

“This is the first time we’ve used it in one of our patients, they’re now being used in other states as well.”
Todd Murfitt in hospital with his two children.

As people age, their brain shrinks.

So, the directional wires on Murfitt’s brain will need to be changed to match the size of the brain.

Getting Back on His Feet

Though Murfitt is still under recovery, he revealed that his condition has improved after the surgery.

He said:

“I always felt like I was still a good dad, but now I feel like I can really do that, I feel completely unrestricted.”
“I can have so much more quality time with the girls. It’s just great.”
“I feel more confident; my brain isn’t having to work so hard to keep up a facade of what I think I should look like.”

Murfitt is now a member of the Parkinson’s Community where people with similar conditions can share their experiences.