Vancouver lawyer Gina Lupino was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 38 and hopes to have deep brain stimulation surgery but has considered moving to another province because wait lists are so long in British Columbia. Lupino is seen in an undated handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Paperclip Law, Randal Hrytzak)

Vancouver lawyer Gina Lupino was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 38 and hopes to have deep brain stimulation surgery but has considered moving to another province because wait lists are so long in British Columbia. Lupino is seen in an undated handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Paperclip Law, Randal Hrytzak)

Patient says B.C. still behind in Parkinson’s brain surgery after announcement

Lawyer Gina Lupino concerned about B.C. wait lists compared with other provinces

At age 36, Gina Lupino felt her right arm and foot stiffening and tremors starting as she played a snare drum in a percussion band. She would see four neurologists over the next year and a half before learning she had Parkinson’s disease.

Her most recent specialist recommended deep brain stimulation surgery last fall because she experienced extreme fluctuations in how her body responded to medication, which sometimes wears off too early and other times doesn’t absorb at all.

On Tuesday, Lupino said she was excited to learn British Columbia plans to double the number of so-called DBS surgeries, up from 36 to 72 as part of an expanded program at UBC Hospital.

However, she was concerned about long wait lists compared with other provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

RELATED: Mayo Clinic provides treatment option for Shuswap woman with Parkinson’s

“One of the things I’ve been looking at is moving to another province just to get this procedure, having to establish residency and a life there. But you can imagine how disruptive that is to my work, to my professional life, to my family,” said Lupino, an intellectual property lawyer specializing in U.S. patent, trademark and copyright prosecution.

Dr. Christopher Honey is the only neurosurgeon in B.C. who performs the invasive eight-hour procedure that is done while a patient is awake to target a specific area of the brain.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the expanded program will mean another doctor will help replace patients’ worn-out batteries, each of which is implanted in a patient’s chest like a pacemaker, as the province works to recruit another neurosurgeon.

Dix said 70 patients are currently on the wait list for deep brain stimulation surgery.

Lupino said that number doesn’t tell the whole story because so many people like her — “a poster-child patient for DBS” — could wait up to four years just to get a consultation with a neurosurgeon before waiting another year for the operation.

RELATED: Standing tall against Parkinson’s disease

“The backlog of the surgery is one thing but the backlog is actually getting the consult,” she said.

“The concern that we’re having is that because DBS is such an intensive procedure it’s not just a one-day thing that you’re in the hospital,” she said, adding patients must return multiple times and that’s particularly expensive for those who don’t live in Vancouver.

“For people who are on disability and on a fixed income and depend on family members’ help for basic lifestyle- and self-care tasks, getting from somewhere in remote B.C. to UBC is really burdensome.”

Lupino considers herself fortunate because she has her own law practice and can accommodate her limitations by working from home or using speech-detect software to write when her right hand won’t co-operate.

“It’s hard to walk, it’s hard to just move. You feel like you’re embedded in molasses or in a pool of water and trying to run, or get dressed or shower or do basic tasks.”

Alicia Wrobel, spokeswoman for the Parkinson Society of British Columbia, said patients in some provinces have little wait time for deep brain stimulation surgery.

Saskatchewan has “virtually no wait list with three qualified neurosurgeons,” she said, adding Alberta has a wait list of six months and employs two neurosurgeons.

Christine Sorensen, president of the BC Nurses Union, said she fully supports shorter wait times and more access to surgeries for all patients but there aren’t enough nurses to care for them.

In a contract ratified last month, the union negotiated a so-called working-short premium requiring employers to pay all nurses on a unit an extra $5 per hour when adequate staffing levels have not been met.

“It’s unique to B.C. and it’s a very innovative idea,” Sorensen said. “It is our goal that the employers will hire more nurses so this penalty will not be paid. Nurses don’t want additional money, they want the nursing staff present in order to provide safe patient care.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The paraglider pilot, while attempting to free himself, dropped 30 feet and sustained serious injuries as Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue members worked quickly to extract him from the trees. They were able to get him to a waiting ambulance at the end of a nearby forest service road. (Contributed Photo/Dave Harder)
Lower Mainland Search and Rescue saves paraglider in treetop rescue

Pilot tried to self-rescue but sustained serious injuries in a 30-foot fall

An original piece of artwork by Rosie Laponder, was stolen along with various art supplies from Julie Ann’s Art and Custom Framing in Chilliwack on Nov. 28, 2020. (Submitted image)
Thieves steal original artwork, art supplies from Chilliwack store

‘It kind of makes you sick to your stomach,’ says store manager

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
Violent crime spree involving knife ends in arrest in Chilliwack

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Hope Secondary School. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Update: Fourth COVID-19 exposure at Hope Secondary School confirmed

Hope high school the only school in Fraser Cascade to experience multiple exposures

Abbotsford's Jada Klein
Abbotsford’s Jada Klein releases debut EP

Fresh off FVMA win, Robert Bateman grad’s ‘Always, Forever’ album arrives online

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Most Read