Former Preds coach turns to surgery to treat Parkinson's - WKRN News 2

Former Preds coach turns to surgery to treat Parkinson's


A former associate coach for the Nashville Predators is taking a chance off the ice as he undergoes treatment to help with his fight against Parkinson's disease.  

Early Tuesday morning, Brent Peterson and his wife Tami arrived at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for the first of the procedures.

Despite the early arrival time, Peterson is wide awake since he only sleeps a few hours a night due to all of the medication he takes.

"When my meds work well, I'm bouncing off the walls. I'm hyper speed, but when they don't work, I'm sort of locked up," Peterson explained.

Peterson, a former hockey player and coach told Nashville's News 2 he has been involved in his share of battles on the ice, though none compare to the one he is fighting outside the arena.

Peterson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2003, at the age of 44.

"My only symptom was my right arm was stiff. It didn't swing when I walked so for years it just stayed on my one side," Peterson recalled.

Peterson and his wife said they kept the diagnosis a secret for a year, but eventually told the team when his symptoms worsened.

In 2007, Peterson established the Peterson for Parkinson's Foundation, which benefits disease research, education and support groups.

Currently, the 53-year-old takes countless prescriptions to treat his disease, often leaving him sleep deprived and exhausted.

Peterson said he is hoping to change that so he is undergoing a total of four procedures involved in a surgical treatment called Deep Brain Stimulation.

The treatment sends small signals that are sent from a stimulator through electrodes implanted in the brain.  

The hope is to ease his symptoms caused by Parkinson's disease.

"It's pretty scary. I'm just lucky I'm healthy enough to do it," Peterson said.

Peterson said he has known DBS was an option, but only recently began considering it.

"It wasn't because I didn't believe the technology. I didn't think I was bad enough off to do it," Peterson said.

However, his disease has progressed, forcing him from the bench and into a consulting role at the end of last season.   

The first procedure, which he underwent Tuesday, involved putting bone markers, or little screws, in Peterson's head.  

This is preparation for a five hour surgery, the most important surgery that will take place during the second week.

Peterson said he is relying on his family, friends and beloved team to get through the procedures.

"The team has been tremendous in all aspects, supportive, they've kept me on as an employee with my benefits, and the players are great. It's good to see them every time I get down there so I couldn't ask for anything more from an employer or the guys I coached before," he said.

Despite his disease, Peterson said he is never far from the ice, even though it sometimes feels that way.

"It's really hard to sit up top after being a player and coach for 25 or 30 years.  It's better to be in the action, but I'm past those days," Peterson said.

He told Nashville's News 2 he will continue looking forward to better days ahead.

Peterson is scheduled to undergo his second surgery next Tuesday.

Medical officials said the surgery is not for all Parkinson's patient, but for those who are approved after undergoing testing.  

Peterson is a good candidate since he responds well to his medication.  

Doctors are clear the surgery is not a cure, but it can improve symptoms and lead to a better quality of life.

Nashville's News 2's Lori Mitchell will continue to follow Brent Peterson's journey.

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