When Pamela Hunt's neurologist told her she could receive a new treatment for Parkinson's disease at Albury Wodonga Health, her reaction was instant.
"He said, 'Go home and think about it', and I said, 'I don't need to, I'm going to say 'Yes, now'," the 76-year-old said.
"It's really exciting and I don't have to travel so far to receive it."
So the Berrigan woman on Tuesday became the first patient on the Border to be fitted with a Duodopa pump.
Neurologist Steven Ring, surgeon John Stuchbery, Albury Wodonga Health and AbbVie Care worked to make it accessible here.
"I came over for my visit to see Stephen last October and he offered it to me because I'm having trouble remembering to take tablets on time," Mrs Hunt said.
"It can be debilitating, if you're with people and you can't stop shaking or talk properly.
"I've lived in Berrigan all my life, worked and brought the kids up there ... I've been on my own since my husband died so I'm in the self-care units at Amaroo.
"It's been really good. I used to play golf, but I haven't got the strength now."
Albury Hospital medical ward one nurse unit manager Delwyn Neilson has been looking after Mrs Hunt since her surgery on Tuesday.
"Pamela had to come through our day procedure unit, and have what we we call a peg tube inserted and then she came back to our medical space after having that done," she said.
"The AbbVie employee, whose name is Sheree, is a trained, specialist Parkinson's nurse.
"She went through the education and the process of getting Pamela set up with the pump attached to the peg to deliver the medication.
"The pump goes on first thing in the morning, and stays on for roughly 16 hours, coming off at night.
"Instead of taking tablets every three hours, she has a constant delivery of a drug called Duodopa.
"Taking the tablets, you get peaks and troughs.
"So the idea of the pump is to have that titrated, continual dose through the day and hopefully lessen those peaks and troughs (of symptoms)."
Ms Neilson said such treatment would usually be confined to capital cities and Mrs Hunt's case would "open the door" for others. "Pamela's our first regional patient ... I think it's really exciting to have such an advanced treatment option regionally," she said.
"We've built a really good relationship with the AbbVie Care team - there's already talk of future patients."
Duodopa specialist Sheree Ambrosini will travel to Berrigan to teach others about the pump to support Mrs Hunt, who has recovered well.
"It will probably take a couple days to get the flow (of medication) right," she said.
"I'm feeling really good and excited."
How does it work?
Parkinson's is a chronic, progressive neuro-degenerative condition that has no cure.
More than 13,000 new Parkinson's cases are diagnosed in Australia every year.
Parkinson's symptoms may include muscle rigidity, tremor, postural instability and bradykinesia (slowness of movement).
It doesn't just affect movement; other symptoms can include pain, sensory changes, changes in the gastrointestinal system, anxiety/depression, problems with memory and thinking, dementia and sleep disorders.
Parkinson's Victoria explains Duodopa is a gel that is pumped continuously through a tube that is inserted into the intestine, where it is absorbed through the gut into the bloodstream.
This option is suitable for a small number of people, who have had Parkinson's for some time and whose symptoms can't be controlled with more common treatments.
Because it's given continuously, if you are prescribed Duodopa you are less likely to experience involuntary movements. You might have fewer 'off' periods. And it may also help control symptoms at night.
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The treatment was offered at Launceston General Hospital in 2019 and neurologist Matthew Lee-Archer told Australian Community Media such therapies "are really ways of bypassing the stomach and administering therapies, without needing the stomach to be involved.
"And that way, we get much more reliable consistent medication effects," he said.
- Parkinson's Victoria has a free confidential information line: 1800 644 189