Take a chance
Deep brain stimulation was first used in the late 1980s to control tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease. More recently, doctors have learned that people with OCD may benefit from it.
Fewer than 300 patients around the world have received deep brain stimulation therapy for OCD, according to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. At the University of Colorado Health, Patel was patient number eight.
Patel is now just over a year away from his surgery.
During the procedure, electrodes are implanted into the deeper structures of the brain and connected to generators in the chest that send small electrical currents to the brain, similar to pacemakers. When the procedure is successful, the low current of continuous stimulation reduces the intensity and frequency of obsessions and compulsions.
“It’s not a cure. I still struggle daily with OCD, daily with depression,” Patel said. “My OCD scale from obsessively severe to moderate. So someone would look at it and say I still do a lot of obsessive-compulsive things. But for me, it’s the space it created in my brain.”
A very functional example
Patel was born and raised in Sacramento. Symptoms of OCD started when he was 4 or 5 years old, and depression started in high school.
UC Davis offered the opportunity to attend a good school and stay close to home, he said.
“I couldn’t share a bathroom with anyone,” Patel said. “I stayed home all four years [of college] and converted. I would literally wake up, use the restroom, shower, drive to UC Davis for morning classes, come back, use the restroom, shower, and go back for evening class.
He majored in psychology to better understand the brain – and perhaps gain some self-understanding. In medical school, he shifted his focus to internal medicine.
In school – and now in his career – Patel has been very successful. When asked how he managed it, he said the time was very difficult.
“It certainly wasn’t a smooth journey. It was a very bumpy road,” he said. “It was a lot of compartmentalization. When you’re working, you’re working. Those obsessions came, but I would think about doing my rituals at home. And then just sleep as much as I could to get away from my brain and start over.
So now he enjoys a little relief – and speaks candidly about his experience. He recently shared his story for a talk called “Transforming Healthcare 2022: New Frontiers in Mental Health.” He said he would like to help people better understand the disorder.
He is currently balancing his work as a physician and assistant professor with pursuing an MBA to focus on hospital administration and leadership.
“I feel reborn,” he said. “I describe it as if my whole house was on fire, now a quarter is on fire and the rest has been rebuilt. After living with that torment for so many years, it feels so refreshing and just wonderful.