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(Written, produced, and directed by Deborah J. Fryer, PhD.; Lila Films, Inc. 2007)
Imagine being diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease—the progressive motor system disorder characterized by tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement, and impaired balance—at the tender age of 33. That was the reality faced by electrical engineer Paul Schroder, who spent the next 10 years of his life taking 21 pills a day to cope with his increasingly debilitating symptoms. Dreams of having a wife, family, and career faded away, and Schroder eventually moved back home to seek help from his parents because on some days, he was completely unable to move his body.
That's when Schroder decided to undergo bilateral deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, although he was warned that the risky DBS hasn't been proven as a cure. Shaken chronicles Schroder as he makes the decision to pursue DBS, enters the operating room, and undergoes the surgery, in which electrodes are implanted in his brain and a neurostimulation device is implanted underneath his collarbone. We see MRI images of Schroder's brain and watch the neurosurgery team perform its magic.
And it is a kind of “magic.” “We're going to tell you right now, we are not really sure how this works,” a neurologist tells Schroder right before the surgery. Nevertheless, Schroder finds himself regaining many of the functions that Parkinson's disease had stolen from him—including his ability to smile.
While only 30 minutes long, Shaken is a poignant documentary that sheds light on the challenges of Parkinson's. The ending is bittersweet: An infection develops in Schroder's scalp, necessitating that the electrodes be removed, and Schroder once again is debilitated by tremors and stiffness. Yet as a testament to his determination, Schroder plans to have the DBS electrodes re-implanted a few years later.
Stay tuned for an expanded, feature-length version of this award-winning documentary that will follow Schroder's second brain surgery. Copies of the DVD can be ordered at lilafilms.com or (303) 442-1966.