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Woman with Parkinson's Disease Is Sewing Again Thanks to Deep Brain Stimulation

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Six years ago, Marlys Cocozzoli, a Bossier City, Louisiana native, walked her dog four times a week for a couple of miles, ran a 5k, drove, sewed, embroidered, swam and worked as an elections trainer and a master clerk for the Supervisor of Elections office in the Florida panhandle community where she now lives.

“But one day as I walked down the hall, I realized my right arm wasn't swinging. I gradually recognized my left side never seemed to stop moving. I became alarmed as it seemed my body refused to cooperate with me.” She told her husband what was happening, and Marlys went through a series of tests and eight months of medical appointments. “No one seemed to know what was wrong with me.”

Then she was referred to Ochsner, where she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. “I gave up driving because I realized my reactions wouldn't be fast enough in an emergency. We canceled a big trip overseas when it became clear I just couldn't walk very much. I had difficulty in even feeding myself.

Deep brain stimulation

“Initially I was having a great deal of difficulty in tolerating the various meds that are normally prescribed for PD. They made me constantly and sometimes violently nauseous. Then Dr. (Georgia) Lea suggested I consider DBS -- deep brain stimulation. I immediately said ‘Yes!’ She said that people with PD were seeing better benefit from it when done earlier, rather than later in the course of their lives.’’

Marlys said, “That decision has made all the difference for me and my husband! Was it scary to have brain surgery? Absolutely! But the doctors, nurses and other staff at Ochsner were there to help me every step of the way. I sew and digitize machine embroidery designs. I also hate those hideous hospital gowns that never fit or seem to cover your backside. So, knowing I was to have a series of surgeries, I designed my own hospital gowns. I created three different gowns because the procedure required three different surgeries. The staff and other patients laughed at them and they brought smiles to everyone, including myself. The hands-down favorite was my Wonder Woman gown. During the implanting of the electrodes, I was awake and we were talking back and forth. I vividly remember Dr. (Julia) Staisch commenting on my gown that day. She then whipped out her phone and showed me pictures of herself dressed as Wonder Woman during Mardi Gras!” It was meant to be.

Patient wearing a Wonder Woman costume
Marlys Cocozzoli wearing the Wonder Woman patient gown she made.

Sewing and cooking again

“It took time and experimentation after the DBS but my doctors and I eventually found the right combination of electrode settings and medications. I now no longer need to use a cane or wheelchair. We're back to traveling again. The tremors and rigidity are gone. I can use a pair of scissors. I'm back sewing again. I can whisk, stir and cut food. We had friends over for a tea party. They were amazed to see me up, walking around, carrying a glass pitcher to refill their drinks. I still don't drive because I don't have quick enough reflexes but that's OK with me. I am forever grateful to the staff of Ochsner Medical Center (New Orleans) for all the excellent care they've given me.”

Neurologist Julia Staisch, MD, said, “I am so proud of Marlys. Back in 2019 I met an extraordinary woman whose fighting spirit shone through her persistent Parkinson’s symptoms. It is amazing to see how far she’s come since her DBS surgery in 2019. She entrusted her care with us to get past these hindrances, and with our team’s guidance and treatment she is back to doing what she loves and living life to the fullest.”

'Fabulous options'

So, what else has Marlys accomplished? She and her husband visited friends in Colorado, where they ziplined over the Royal Gorge, 1,200 feet up. They reached speeds of 40 mph.

Couple ziplining
Marlys Cocozzoli and her husband ziplining

“America’s highest zip line. Yeehaaaaw! I talked to a teenager who’d had brain surgery for a different matter and encouraged he and his mother to live life to the fullest,’’ Marlys said. “She was hesitant, to say the least, about zip lining, but she said after talking to me for a while she felt much more confident. We were a few sets behind them but when we came in for the landing, she and her son were there cheering us on! I just want people to know there are options. Some fabulous options.”

Learn more about Deep Brain Stimulation at Ochsner.

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