16 November 2005

Filed under Parkinson's

The power of touch

Times Online November 16, 2005


Michael Holman writes about the astonishing operation which transformed his life and brought him unexpected insights into medicine's complementary mysteries

To call me a bionic man may well be an exaggeration. But since my lifestyle, if not my life, depends on four electrodes implanted deep in my brain, powered by a battery buried in my chest, I can claim something approaching bionic status.

I can even give a graphic demonstration.

Hold what looks like a computer mouse next to the concealed battery, press a button, and the whole system stops working. And within seconds, I start shaking. Press the button again, and I stop. Just like that.

The electrodes are not a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, which I have had for twenty years; but the implant operation, pioneered in Grenoble, France, in the early 1990s, alleviates the symptoms, of which severe, incapacitating tremor is the most common.

Neither of the men responsible for this discovery - Professors Louis-Alim Benabid and Pierre Pollack - can say precisely why the procedure works. But work it certainly does.

Indeed, when I emerged from the lengthy operation at Grenoble’s University Hospital in early 2001, I called the outcome my renaissance, so dramatic were the benefits. Above all, the shakes had all but gone.

So it is understandable, then, if five years later, I return to the French city. I want to be absolutely sure that the battery will not run out during my travels to Africa in the coming months.

But behind my visit lay more than a need for technical reassurance.

After all, the battery life can readily be assessed at London’s Queen Square, where the operation is now performed.

In returning to the place of my "rebirth", I was also seeking reassurance of a different sort, renewing a belief in two ancient healing forces. The first of these became apparent the night I entered the hospital.

Two of my pillars of support - my mother and my partner - had left for the night. I was alone. In low spirits, I opened the note that came with a huge bunch of flowers sent by colleagues at the Financial Times, where I was Africa editor.

It was a list of names, with messages of support. And it buoyed my morale, and helped end my fears of what lay ahead.

The second insight came a few days later, when I was on the operating table. One has to be able to communicate with the neurologist, and so the patient must be conscious throughout a procedure that can last anything from 11 to 15 hours. And because the head has to be rock steady, it is bolted into a surrounding frame.

This is certainly not pleasant; but it is not as bad as it might seem. Having a hole drilled in one’s head is painless - rather like having a tooth drilled when the area has been anaethetised.

But as I lay immobilised, and two friends filmed the process that got under way, I desperately wanted physical human contact. So I appealed to a young neurologist from Italy, who was observing the operation. Although she seemed surprised, she readily agreed to hold my hand. The comfort was real, considerable and immediate.

But the story does not end there. A few days later, a fellow patient in what seemed an advanced stage of dementia, and who had been taking an obsessive interest in me, appeared at the door of my ward.

To my dismay and alarm, this time instead of keeping his distance, he advanced.

Then I remembered my own need for human touch, and I held out my hand. He took it in his, and for a few seconds that was how we stayed, until he shuffled off. I never saw him again.

And so I return to Grenoble, seeking more than reassurance about the state of my battery.

On the one hand, the city’s hospital stands for clinical and professional excellence, the apogee of high-tech medicine, even though it is still not entirely clear how the breakthrough of 15 years ago in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease actually works.

But for me it also is the place where I learnt that modern medicine can be complemented by forces which are equally mysterious, and which can be equally potent: the comfort of the human touch, and the knowledge that one is in the thoughts of family, friends and strangers.
Neither will recharge my battery - but they certainly do my spirits a power of good.

For more information:

Michael Holman is a regular contributor to Times On/ine on African issues. He is the former Africa editor for the London Financial Times.
His novel, Last Orders at Harrods: An African Tale, is published by Polygon.



Your blog posts are more interesting and impressive. I think there are many people like and visit it regularly, including me.I actually appreciate your own position and I will be sure to come back here. I like this article very much. I'll definitely be back. Feel free to surf : college paper writing service

Posted by rre on 6th January 2018 at 06:18am

The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing.. watch tv series online free

Posted by Lena Aguilar on 26th February 2018 at 06:32am

here are 123freemovies

Posted by tando on 2nd March 2018 at 03:44pm

The only thing what students always see is the price of the essay from any cheap essay writer service blogs. Students must know that only look at price in essay blogs don`t give them good quality essay what they want. They must look for experience and the customer reviews about that blog also. These will help them to choose best blog.

Posted by Crystal R. Garza on 3rd September 2018 at 02:52pm

i. Dia jatuh, dan sebelum saya pergi, saya menendang ini ke 15 pusat plat astm516 70 pusat plat boiler pusat plat hardox pusat plat hb 400 pusat plat high strenght pusat plat high tensile sm490 yb pusat plat high tensile sm490ya pusat plat kapal pusat plat stainless ss304 pusat plat stainless ss310 Agen Plat Besi Baja Jual besi Pipa sch 80 baja Jual besi beton cakra steel cs Supplier Bondek Cor Supplier Bondek Cor Distributor Plat besi Jual bondek undangan pernikahan artis Jual Besi Pipa Baja Schedule 80 Toko Plat Besi Baja Supplier besi Pipa sch 80 baja Jual besi beton bjku Toko Bondek Cor Toko Bondek Cor Distributor besi h beam Jual wiremesh undangan pernikahan anti mainstream Jual Besi Pipa Baja Schedule 40 Jual Plat Besi Baja Toko besi Pipa sch 80 baja Jual besi beton Sni Ulir Polos Agen Bondek Cor Agen Bondek Cor Distributor besi wf Jual pipa besi baja sch 40 sch 80 undangan pernikahan amplop Jual Pipa Besi Hitam Medium Harga Plat Besi Baja Agen besi Pipa sch 80 baja Jual besi beton ais Pabrik Bondek Cor Pabrik Bondek Cor Distributor wiremesh Jual besi hollow undangan pernikahan mewah Jual Besi Wf Pabrik Plat Besi Baja Pabrik besi Pipa sch 80 baja Jual besi beton Distributor Welded Beam Distributor Welded Beam Distributor besi unp Jual besi beton Sni Ulir Polos undangan pernikahan anime Jual Besi H beam Distributor Besi H beam Baja Distributor Plat Bordes Harga Welded Beam Harga Welded Beam Distributor besi cnp Jual besi wf baja undangan pernikahan elegan Jual Besi Beton Supplier Besi H beam Baja Harga Plat Bordes Jual Welded Beam Jual Welded Beam Distributor besi hollow Jual besi unp undangan pernikahan contoh Agen Besi H beam Baja Jual Plat Bordes Supplier Welded Beam Supplier Welded Beam Distributor besi beton Sni Ulir Polos

Posted by farchan ali on 4th December 2018 at 01:54pm

Great job here. I definitely enjoyed what you had to say. Keep heading because you undoubtedly bring a new voice to this subject. Not many people would say what youve said and still make it interesting. Properly, at least Im interested. Cant wait to see extra of this from you. bathroom remodeling

Posted by bathroom remodeling on 15th May 2019 at 01:01pm

I’d also like to state that most of those that find themselves without the need of health insurance are normally students, self-employed and those that are jobless. More than half from the uninsured are under the age of Thirty five. They do not sense they are in need of health insurance since they are young along with healthy. Their income is normally spent on real estate, food, and also entertainment. Some people that do represent the working class either whole or not professional are not given insurance by means of their jobs so they go without because of the rising valuation on health insurance in america. Thanks for the tips you discuss through your blog. UTME Past Question and Answers

Posted by UTME Past Question and Answers on 18th May 2019 at 12:51pm

What I want to know is why I should care? I mean, not to say that what youve got to say isnt important, but I mean, its so generic. Everyones talking about this man. Give us something more, something that we can get behind so we can feel as passionately about it as you do. 18mm dab nail

Posted by 18mm dab nail on 18th May 2019 at 12:51pm

It’s rare knowledgeable men and women for this topic, but you be understood as what happens you’re referring to! Thanks Danbury Chiropractic and Wellness

Posted by Danbury Chiropractic and Wellness on 20th May 2019 at 12:08pm

contact lens are not only for fashion but it can also protect your eyes from dust and UV radiation:: Sahara occidental

Posted by Sahara occidental on 20th May 2019 at 12:09pm

I am curious to find out what blog platform you have been working with? I’m having some small security issues with my latest website and I would like to find something more safe. Do you have any suggestions? buy marijuana online

Posted by buy marijuana online on 24th May 2019 at 10:06am

I definitely wanted to post a small message so as to express gratitude to you for some of the amazing tips you are placing on this site. My extensive internet investigation has at the end of the day been paid with incredibly good details to talk about with my relatives. I would declare that we website visitors actually are truly fortunate to dwell in a fabulous site with so many outstanding individuals with useful things. I feel rather fortunate to have come across your webpages and look forward to some more amazing moments reading here. Thank you again for all the details. how to get your house sold quickly

Posted by how to get your house sold quickly on 25th May 2019 at 11:22am

Hiya, I am really glad I’ve found this information. Nowadays bloggers publish only about gossips and net and this is actually irritating. A good blog with interesting content, this is what I need. Thanks for keeping this website, I’ll be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Cant find it. casinostugan

Posted by casinostugan on 28th May 2019 at 07:58am

There a few interesting points in time here but I do not determine if these people center to heart. There may be some validity but I’m going to take hold opinion until I explore it further. Great post , thanks and now we want a lot more! Included with FeedBurner likewise Free YouTube to MP3 Converter

Posted by Free YouTube to MP3 Converter on 28th May 2019 at 12:06pm

I respect your work , regards for all the good posts . 除毛

Posted by 除毛 on 29th May 2019 at 11:31am

I admire this article for the well-researched content and excellent wording. I got so involved in this material that I couldn’t stop reading. I am impressed with your work and skill. Thank you so much. where to find love after 50

Posted by where to find love after 50 on 29th May 2019 at 11:31am

Generally I do not read article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to check out and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, very great post. commercial landscaping

Posted by commercial landscaping on 30th May 2019 at 05:58am

Aw, it was a very good post. In idea I would like to devote writing such as this furthermore,?¡ìC spending time and specific work to produce a great article?- nonetheless so what can I say?- I waste time alot and never at all seem to obtain one thing completed. Shopping center construction

Posted by Shopping center construction on 30th May 2019 at 05:58am

Aw, this was a really nice post. In concept I wish to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make an excellent article… however what can I say… I procrastinate alot and not at all appear to get something done. dewapoker

Posted by dewapoker on 30th May 2019 at 10:05am

aggressive as men when they are driving. They are much less likely to be the instigator in a road rage incident, for example. It is also Amazon

Posted by Amazon on 30th May 2019 at 10:05am

I’m not sure exactly why but this site is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end? I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists. consolidate payday loans

Posted by consolidate payday loans on 4th June 2019 at 07:44pm has provided industry-standard web hosting and related services to hundreds of thousands of customers across the globe. Your website deserves the quality and care that we can provide, using cutting-edge tactics and strategies through our SEO strategy services. - Online Internet Marketing Services, Website Marketing Company

Posted by - Online Internet Marketing Services, Website Marketing Company on 4th June 2019 at 07:44pm

Hello i would really love to subscribe and read your blog posts , e liquid label

Posted by e liquid label on 7th June 2019 at 03:02pm

I wanted to compose you the little observation just to thank you once again regarding the exceptional basics you have shared on this site. It has been simply wonderfully open-handed of people like you to supply publicly just what a few people would have sold for an electronic book to help with making some bucks for their own end, mostly now that you could possibly have tried it if you decided. These thoughts likewise acted as the fantastic way to be aware that the rest have the identical desire really like mine to figure out somewhat more with regards to this issue. Certainly there are numerous more enjoyable sessions up front for individuals that start reading your blog трансферы на лимузине Кипр

Posted by трансферы на лимузине Кипр on 7th June 2019 at 03:02pm

Nice post. I learn some thing more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content off their writers and exercise a little something from their site. I’d would rather apply certain with the content in my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll provide link in your web weblog. Thank you sharing. convert YouTube videos to MP3 for free

Posted by convert YouTube videos to MP3 for free on 8th June 2019 at 06:33am

I definitely wanted to post a simple remark in order to thank you for all the unique tips and tricks you are giving out on this website. My incredibly long internet search has finally been recognized with extremely good points to go over with my company. I ‘d say that we readers are very blessed to exist in a superb site with so many awesome people with good advice. I feel pretty happy to have come across your entire website and look forward to tons of more brilliant moments reading here. Thanks a lot once more for everything. spotify

Posted by spotify on 8th June 2019 at 06:33am

Hey there, You have done a fantastic job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m confident they will be benefited from this website. 888 casino recension

Posted by 888 casino recension on 8th June 2019 at 01:37pm

Oh my goodness! a great write-up dude. Thanks a ton Nevertheless I am experiencing issue with ur rss . Do not know why Can not sign up to it. Is there anyone obtaining identical rss problem? Anybody who knows kindly respond. Thnkx 皮秒雷射

Posted by 皮秒雷射 on 12th June 2019 at 08:30am

I’m happy! Seriously useful blog post right here my buddie. I just desired to comment & say keep up the excellent work. I’ve bookmarked your site right now and I’ll come back to read more soon my friend! Additionally nice designs on the page layout, it’s genuinely simple for the eye. QQPlaywin

Posted by QQPlaywin on 12th June 2019 at 08:31am

Nice Post. It’s really a very good article. I noticed all your important points. Thanks!! 스포츠토토

Posted by 스포츠토토 on 13th June 2019 at 12:51pm is a full-service digital marketing agency with a long history of delivering great results for our clients marketing 1 on 1 Website Marketing Company

Posted by marketing 1 on 1 Website Marketing Company on 13th June 2019 at 12:51pm

OMG! This article is the one that I was looking for quite a long time! Good to know about it.

Posted by Online Sportsbook Malaysia on 19th June 2019 at 01:04am

Visit and the biggest and most trusted casino live gambling site in Malaysia

Posted by Malaysia Online Casino on 19th June 2019 at 01:38am

Posted by Online Casino Malaysia on 19th June 2019 at 01:38am

Visit and the biggest and most trusted casino live gambling site in Malaysia

Posted by Malaysia Online Casino on 19th June 2019 at 01:39am

Posted by Online casino Malaysia on 19th June 2019 at 01:39am

Make a comment
Email will not be published
Put right answer (e.g. twenty-five)
Leave this field blank (antispam tool)