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A doctor in Toronto treats a man with Parkinson's disease at N.L.'s home. this is how they do it

 Nearly 16 years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, George Martin says he has his life back — thanks to a first-of-its-kind technology.

The 68-year-old lives in Mount His Pearl, Newfoundland, but the NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic will allow doctors to treat him away from Toronto. 

It alleviated the tremors caused by his condition and allowed him to live his life again, Martin told CBC Toronto. 8} "I can drive again, but I couldn't. I was too nervous to go to a restaurant I couldn't go to. I couldn't go because I was afraid of falling. Now I can dance again." Martin said. "I got my life back."

Martin had surgery last November to begin deep brain stimulation (DBS). The treatment relies on a device called a pacemaker in the brain, which runs electrodes through the part of the brain that causes Martin's tremors. DBS is nothing new, but patients must have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor to make extensive adjustments to the device before his NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic in Canada approves it.

His Krembil Brain Institute at his Western hospital in Toronto was the first clinic in Canada to introduce this new technology, and Martin is the first patient to be treated in the country.

The pandemic pushed the development of remote technology.

Before this technology was used by his Krembil Brain Institute, face-to-face DBS clinics were limited to Canada's more populated areas. was 

Some states have no treatment centers at all, said Dr. Alfonso Fasano, a clinical researcher at the institute.

He told his CBC Toronto that the COVID-19 pandemic motivated him to roll out a full telemedicine option. 

"Finally there was movement to implement something that would allow patients to be programmed remotely," he said. "It's similar to other telemedicine platforms, but it's built into the programs you use to [adjust device settings]." 

Just like with any other tablet, he said. “We can see patients, talk to them, adjust DBS settings in real time, and it's very secure.”

The software was developed to withstand cyberattacks and connection failures. It was, he added. 

Dr. Alfonso Fasano, a clinical investigator at Toronto Western Hospital's Clenville Brain Institute, says the new technology will Patients with neurological disorders. (University Health Network)

Fasano is excited about the possibilities this new technology opens up. He hopes that patients across Canada will be able to access treatment without worrying about distance, as long as they have an internet connection.

NeuroSphere technology can also benefit patients with a variety of neurological disorders. DBS is also approved for the treatment of essential tremor disorder, dystonia, and epilepsy, Fasono said. It may also be approved to treat mental illness. 

Another advantage, Fasano said, is that patients can be tested at home in their everyday setting. This allows physicians to program the technology to best suit their patients' daily needs. 

Martin said he was grateful to receive the care he needed from the comfort of his own home.

NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic allows physicians to remotely manage deep brain stimulation to treat patients with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, essential tremor disorder and epilepsy. (Abbott Laboratories)

After years of unsuccessful treatments for Parkinson's disease, he said he was almost ready to give up.

"A specialist here in Newfoundland... looked at me one day and said, 'There's nothing more I can do for you,'" said Martin.

Fortunately, the specialist suggested that he be considered for DBS treatment.

With the help of his sister in Toronto, Martin made the long journey for evaluation.

Within a week, he said he was recalled to undergo surgery. He was released the same day and thankfully has not had to travel again since.

He simply logs into Zoom to meet with his primary care doctor.

Currently, in his spare time, he travels on weekends.He camps in his trailer and enjoys walking his four beagle dogs. This is an activity that I was not able to do before receiving the remote DBS treatment.

"I would recommend it to anyone considering having surgery," said Martin. "That's great for me, and I am very grateful to [the doctors]."