January 2011

Mark Farkas, Film Producer

It Ain’t Television . . . It’s Brain Surgery is a film about the experience Mark’s father, Ray Farkas, had with his DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) surgery in October 2003 at age 67.

Click here to watch it.

Ray was diagnosed with PD a year before he told his family. His symptoms became more obvious and included a change in skin color, tremor, withdrawn personality, stiff, and freezing. He also stopped playing tennis because he was losing to people who had previously lost to him. Ray opted for DBS because he wanted to have a second chance and do things he used to do before.

Ray was a TV producer with a long career at NBC so when he decided to have DBS he asked his sons to film his experiences. Following him to doctor’s appointments and through surgery at Georgetown University was an emotional experience for the sons and the friends who helped them.

During DBS surgery, the patient is awake and in Ray’s case, he was awake for 8 hours. The film helped to distract him while he was in surgery and he even had doctors singing “If I only had a brain”.

The surgery was followed with lots of occupational and physical therapy where they worked on things like manual dexterity and speech. Visits to the doctor for “tune-ups” to the battery pack were required after surgery when his speech slurred or tremor increased. This wasn’t always to increase voltage, it could be to decrease it as well. Michael Kinsley, founding editor of the online journal Slate, also had DBS in July 2006. Thanks to advances in the last few years he does his own tune-ups before appearing on TV.

Most of Ray’s symptoms were relieved by DBS and he felt that DBS surgery   gave him his life back. He was able to enjoy playing tennis again and began talking to groups about PD and DBS and appeared on Nightline and Oprah. He wanted to let people know DBS is ok.

He took the same medications as before but in smaller doses. Before the surgery he experienced side effects of the medications and that bothered him but they weren’t as bad after the surgery.

At age 70 Ray was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer passed away in January 2008. He donated body to the Georgetown University Hospital for medical research.

Mark commented that the surgery wasn’t all fun. Surgery is not a cure –  progression of the disease still occurs.

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