Madisyn Tyk noticed that her grandpa wasn’t smiling as much as he once did. When she looked back at photos of them together, she thought Patrick Tyk always looked a little sad.
“I was really worried about him,” says Madisyn. “So I asked what was wrong—if he was OK and if he was happy. And they explained to me it was just the Parkinson’s mask.”
Patrick Tyk had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004 after his hands started trembling. In addition to the distinctive tremors and muscle stiffness the neurodegenerative condition typically causes, it can also immobilize the facial muscles, leaving the face constantly expressionless. That’s the Parkinson’s mask.
Patrick and Jo Ann Tyk had been planning to retire early, but they were overwhelmed with uncertainty after Patrick’s diagnosis. “It was almost like part of my life was over,” he says.
As his symptoms became more pronounced, the Tyks struggled with the disease’s implications. Patrick took so many medications to help control the symptoms that he says he felt “like a zombie” at times. Once, when he and Jo Ann were leaving a shopping mall, Patrick had to sit down on the curb because he just couldn’t make his body move across the parking lot.
It’s particularly painful for Patrick Tyk to recall the time he and his son, Carter, were getting ready to go to a hockey game, and Patrick had trouble buttoning his shirt. So Carter reached over and did it for him.
“I think about all of the times he did that for me as a child,” Carter Tyk says. “As the child, you don’t always take care of your parent in the same way, but it was something that I did, and it touched him deeply.”
Tyk’s neurologist in Brainerd, Minn., referred him to University of Minnesota Health to find out whether deep brain stimulation surgery, a procedure used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s when medications aren’t sufficient, could help him. After an extensive evaluation, the M Health team determined that Tyk would be a good candidate for the surgery.
Today, two years since his last surgery—he had two, one for each side of his brain—Tyk’s life has changed significantly. Tyk still gets choked up talking about how much he appreciates the care he received through M Health. “The DBS team was just fantastic. I can’t say enough about them,” he says.
“After the surgery, I felt strong enough that I actually went out and got a part-time job,” he says. “I do a lot of walking and physical exercise that I’m sure I never could have done without the surgery.”
Because of the surgery, Jo Ann Tyk says their outlook on life is a lot brighter. They spend less time worrying about nursing homes and more time fishing. “We look to the future,” she says. “Life is very good.”
Granddaughter Madisyn certainly has noticed the difference, too. “He’s smiling again. He’s happy,” she says. “He’s way more himself.”