Craig Churchill, theological librarian of the ACU Brown Library, is feeling the effects of coronavirus more than most.
Churchill was scheduled this March to undergo Deep Brain Stimulation surgery (DBS) to combat Parkinson’s disease, but with COVID-19 outbreaks beginning in Texas, Churchill’s surgery was postponed.
Parkinson’s, a disease affecting the nerve cells that produce dopamine, is progressively degenerative and can be treated by adding or enhancing dopamine in the system.
“Dopamine regulates bodily movement and helps regulate body movement,” Churchill said. “The standard treatment is they either enhance the dopamine you have or add dopamine to your system. The meds are so much that after a while it’s expensive for starters but also the side effects can be as bad as the disease it’s often the case around that 6 or 7 year period that doctors will recommend what’s called Deep Brain Stimulation surgery and mine had asked me to consider it a little bit earlier.”
DBS is a two part surgery; they start by placing electrodes in the brain where the dopamine production is low and from there, they connect those to an extension to a pacemaker type generator in the chest that feeds an electrical current to the dopamine producing nerve cells. The process of this surgery happens in two parts with a hospital stay in between meaning with the outbreak of COVID-19, there were many risks and unanswerable questions that ultimately led to the postponement for Churchill.
“When you get to the surgery it’s a big process,” Churchill said. “First of all you have to decide whether or not you can be helped if you’ve gotten to the point where you are having hallucinations it’s too late. Then when you decide it’s good you get an MRI; I did that on March 9th. The surgery itself is a two part thing. I was to have the surgery march the 23rd on a Monday and then Friday they would have implanted the piece in the chest. So that was one of the issues was Austin the way it was at the time not knowing what the coronavirus situation was. On one hand you want to assure that if they drill into your skull on Monday that you’ll be able to do the second piece of the surgery that week but on the other hand, I would hate to take the bed there if someone needed it for coronavirus.”
Despite the complexity and postponement of the surgery, Churchill is optimistic that he’ll be able to have it soon.
“There’s nothing for sure, but on the one hand I’m optimistic I’ll be able to have it soon,” Churchill said. “If I had to bet I’d think I’ll likely be able to do it but I’ll take whatever I can get and also work in conjunction with my responsibilities here at work but everyone here has just been wonderful as far as that goes.”
Having worked in the library since 1992, his colleagues at ACU have gotten a chance to know him specifically, the Associate Dean of Information Systems, Dr. Mark McCallon. McCallon has worked in the Brown Library since 1991 and has known and worked with Churchill for almost 30 years.
“For the most part what we’ve tried to do is we’ve tried to be supportive and provide him with tools he might need to help him through this,” McCallon said. “He is so much more encouraging of us, any encouragement that we do is always reciprocated and that’s the wonderful thing about Craig. You can say so many nice things about him but he’ll turn right back around and put it right back on you.”
Churchill said just that, expressing his gratitude for his coworkers who have continued to support him and help him throughout his journey with Parkinson’s.
“I’m very blessed by my coworkers,” Churchill said. “It’s humbling but a great blessing when you see people step up and help you so I really want to get that surgery for a number of reasons but one is to get some relief and help my colleagues and be a contributing member again.”
Overall, despite the setbacks due to COVID-19 and the nature of the disease, Churchill still focuses on the good.
“Someone asked about my feelings about Parkinson’s, and I don’t like it,” Churchill said. “There’s nothing pleasant about it. I wouldn’t ask for it and you’ve got these valleys and all the rest but as bad as it’s been and even at its worst I look back and I don’t have any regrets because what God has given me and where I’m at to deal with it has been so wonderful. God can draw the best things out of the worst things.”