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North Saanich man hopes to ride brain implants into a better future

Weeks after doctors inserted electrodes into skull, Len Grant rides to raise cash against Parkinson’s
North Saanich resident Len Grant, here seen after the surgery during which doctors inserted electrodes as part of his treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, will ride in North Saanich and Sidney over the weekend to help raise funds for the fight against the disease. (Photo courtesy of Len Grant)

Imagine surgeons drilling two dime-sized holes in your skull without any sedatives.

That is what happened to North Saanich resident Len Grant on July 13 when he underwent Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery in Vancouver during which surgeons inserted two electrodes several inches into his brain to help treat his Parkinson’s disease. Briefly put, the electrodes produce electrical impulses to counter harmful impulses in the brain.

Grant, who received his diagnosis in 2008 at the age of 60, said the procedure felt like 10 hours rather than four hours, leaving him stressed and tired.

As for the lack of sedatives, this aspect of the operation was necessary because it allowed surgeons to check in with Grant to assess whether they were placing the electrodes in the right place.

But Grant, who was travelling to Vancouver earlier this week for doctors to fine-tune his electrodes, hopes that this treatment, now becoming increasingly popular, will help him gain several more good years.

“I’m hoping it’s a big step forward and I’m very happy to be part of it (the procedure),” he said.

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He certainly looks forward to being back on a bicycle again, as he plans to ride not once, but twice in as many days to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research based in New York City and bearing the name of the Canadian actor famous for iconic movies like the Back to the Future franchise and The Frighteners.

On Saturday, Aug. 28, Grant (joined by 12 riders) will head to the North Saanich Farm Market followed by rides around his Eagle Ridge Estates neighbourhood. Sunday, he will ride through Sidney. While the riding aims to raise money — over five years, Grant’s riding has raised $20,000 for the foundation’s annual race — his participation is also a way to thank you.

“It has been a very difficult time and I really want to show my appreciation,” he said.

Grant also hopes that his upcoming rides, while strenuous, will inspire others. And if he gets too tired, Saturday’s ride is said to be 40 kilometres long, Cycling Without Age Society will give him a lift in one of its trishaws that provide free bike rides for people less abled in Sidney and North Saanich area.

Grant has also received some gentle-natured ribbing from friends wondering how the electrodes would impact his riding.

“And I said, ‘that’s for you to find out,’” he said.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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