NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Rhonda Foulds has a lot time to think, as she goes for long runs along the quiet rural roads near Justin in Denton County. Mostly she reflects on how lucky she is to be able to lace up her own sneakers.
In 1998, Foulds was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease — she was 35 years old. “It was a huge shock, huge shock. I was scared to death.” She admits that she initially didn’t handle the diagnosis well. “I was very depressed, so I just decided, ‘well, I have this horrible illness, so I’m not going to do anything except sit here and wait to die, I guess.’”
The neurological disease not only caused tremors, but made mobility difficult. The once active runner gained 100 pounds, before her doctor suggested she try Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS.
Doctor Michael Desaloms explained, “We use a special technique to implant these small electrodes deep in the brain.
Dr. Desaloms is chair of neurosurgery at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas. He says the electrodes stimulate the brain, helping to control the symptoms. “It’s not a cure for the disease, but it can in many cases dramatically improve the rigidity, the slowness of movement, and the tremor.”
For Foulds, a married mother of three boys, the surgery was nothing short of a miracle.
“It totally changed my life. I went in [the hospital] in a wheelchair, “ said Foulds, “Two weeks after the surgery, I was able to walk out of there.”
Later, one of her sons encouraged her to go for a run, and soon she was reclaiming the old Rhonda—along with her health. Talking about the completion of her first marathon in 2011, Foulds said, “It made me realize that you can do anything that you put your mind to.”
The accomplishment is one even Dr. Desaloms finds amazing. “I’ve never known a patient with advanced Parkinson’s Disease to run a marathon, but then I never knew anybody like Rhonda.”
In 2013, foulds qualified for the Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired runner. “It’s like the most unbelievable thing ever, “ she said. “If you had told me that I was going to run the Boston Marathon when I was in the wheelchair, I would never have been believed it.”
Then, as the North Texas mother approached mile 24 during last year’s race—the unbelievable happened again. This time it was a bomb that had exploded further up the course. “I was devastated by it,” she admits. “I still am. They sent me a medal last year, but it wasn’t the same.”
So, Foulds will return for this year’s Boston Marathon — defying the odds, facing her fears, and just hoping that her heart behaves.
“I just look at it like I’ve been given this gift — medical technology has given me this gift — and I’m not going to waste that.” Excitedly laughing she said, “It’s going to be very difficult to not cry through the whole marathon.”
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