Varadkar visits Dublin Neurological Institute at Mater

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Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health visited the Dublin Neurological Institute (DNI) this week to see the major advances made in the treatment of neurological conditions especially Parkinson’s disease in Ireland. The Minister met a number of patients who have benefited from some of the many new DNI services and clinics for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, multiple sclerosis, headache, epilepsy, stroke, neuropathies, muscular dystrophy and a carer’sclinic. One of the discussions around the table was a call for an all-Ireland approach to potential life changing surgery – Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure used to treat a variety of disabling neurological conditions — most commonly the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD), such as tremor, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement, and walking problems.  The effects can be life changing to those patients who have successful surgery.

The team at the Dublin Neurological Institute, led by Professor Tim Lynch, are hoping that patients who need the surgery will shortly be able to avail of the all-Ireland approach between the Institute and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

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Minister Varadkar said: ‘An all-island approach to Deep Brain Stimulation, which I fully support, is being considered by the Department of Health and the HSE in the context of the Report on Deep Brain Stimulation which was compiled by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children. I will continue to progress this matter in talks with my counterpart in Northern Ireland. I also want to commend the work of the Dublin Neurological Institute which is doing so much to improve the quality of life of its clients.’

Professor Lynch said, “Currently patients are going abroad largely to the UK for treatment. Under the proposed model pre and post operation care will be done at the Dublin Neurological Institute and theSurgery will be performed at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.  The benefits of this approach will besubstantial including ease of access to treatment, better outcome’s and follow up service for the patient, the resolution of certain mobility problems and the financial benefits for patients travelling to Belfast rather than abroad.  We were delighted to discuss with the Minister the clear benefits and advantages of the DNI as a model of service delivery in Ireland highlighting the extent of the services provided, better patient outcomes, cost effectiveness, and the ability of the DNI to meet the future neurological challenges as the incidence of neurological illness in Ireland increases exponentially with the ageing population.”

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One person to have gone through the treatment and who has been amazed at the outcome is a Dublin Neurological Institute patient Brian Donnellan who went to the UK for his surgery.

“Something wonderful happened to me in the unit of Bristol’s Frenchay Hospital. I woke up to natures call and when I got back to the bed I suddenly realised it’s been 10 years since I did that. Just walking/struggling to the toilet normally takes 20 minutes.” Brian is a Parkinson’s patient and 10 years ago started suffering the debilitating symptoms of PD.  “I have been given back 10 years of my lost life.”

Brian said of his thoughts before the surgery, “Somehow I knew something special was going to happen in that room far beyond my expectations. All the little pieces of my personal story add up to at least me thinking that something magical did happen.” There is one person that Brian said was exceptional throughout this whole experience and who he could not have done this without and that is his wife Geraldine who supported him throughout the whole journey.

It is hoped that many more patients will be able to avail of this treatment and the Dublin Neurological Institute at the Mater Hospital is already making sure they have the systems and expert staff in place to provide the best possible care to patients going for DBS in the country.

The Minister met with patients and families some of whom are waiting on the surgery and others who are now in post operation care.  He also met iconic sport presenter Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh who is a Board member of the DNI.